Ukraine says it gains foothold in strategic southeastern village

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine said on Tuesday its troops had entered the strategic southeastern village of Robotyne, a potentially significant advance in its counteroffensive against Russian forces.

Deputy Defence Minister Hanna Maliar said on the Telegram messaging app that Ukrainian soldiers were organising the evacuation of civilians after entering Robotyne but were still coming under fire from Russian forces.

"Our soldiers in the village of Robotyne," General Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, commander of Ukrainian forces in the south, wrote on Telegram under a picture of a soldier in a tank.

Robotyne is 10 km (six miles) south of the frontline town of Orikhiv in the Zaporizhzhia region on an important road towards Tokmak, a Russian-occupied road and rail hub.

Tokmak's capture would be a milestone as Ukrainian troops press southwards towards the Sea of Azov, a military push intended to split Russian occupying forces.

The Institute for the Study of War, an American research group and think tank, has described the Ukrainian attacks on Robotyne as "tactically significant". Advancing in the area could enable Ukrainian forces to begin operating beyond the densest of the Russian minefields that have held up the counteroffensive launched in early June, it said.

In a video published by the Ukrainian military, a woman is seen kissing a Ukrainian soldier and several evacuated residents talking on the phone with loved ones.

"Psychologically it was very hard (...). We were waiting for so long that today they came unexpectedly. We could not even believe it was ours (..) We are very grateful to the boys (troops)," a 52-year-old woman was saying in the video.

Reuters was able to verify the location of the aerial footage from the road layout and positions of buildings seen in the video, which matched satellite imagery of the area. Reuters was not able to independently verify the date it was filmed.

Russia, which sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine in February 2022, did not immediately comment on the reports from Robotyne.

(Reporting by Anna Pruchnicka and Kyiv newsroom, Editing by Timothy Heritage)