The Ukraine military claimed Tuesday that it had downed one of Russia’s Iran-built drones as Kyiv’s counteroffensive continued to drive back the invaders from northeastern towns occupied since the early weeks of the war.

The Ukrainian military published images of wreckage from the drone, encountered near Kupiansk in Kharkiv province, where Ukraine troops have made a push in recent days into the strategically important city of Izyum.

In Moscow, the Russian Defense Ministry tried to tamp down emerging unrest at the progress of the war, saying teams of attack helicopters are making more than five combat sorties every day to disrupt the counteroffensive near Izyum. Russian forces also shelled the center of Kharkiv, knocking out power and water in some areas of the city, Mayor Ihor Terekhov said.

Electricity had been fully restored in the region of Kharkiv by Tuesday evening, according to a Telegram post from Ukrainian presidential aide Kyrylo Tymoshenko.

Russia has withdrawn many troops from the province, but claims this was a planned regrouping to increase efforts on the southern Donetsk front.

“The enemy is demoralized and is looking for ways to leave the occupied territories,” Ukraine’s Operational Command South said. “But the occupiers still have a lot of strength and power.”

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This undated photograph released by the Ukrainian military's Strategic Communications Directorate shows the wreckage of what Kyiv has described as an Iranian Shahed drone downed near Kupiansk, Ukraine. Ukraine's military claimed Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2022, for the first time that it encountered an Iranian-supplied suicide drone used by Russia on the battlefield.

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Ukraine tells Russian soldiers: ‘You don’t need this war. Surrender’

As newly liberated residents in some parts of Ukraine celebrate the Russian retreat and inspect the charred tanks left behind, Ukrainian authorities are working to persuade more of the invading troops to give up the fight.

Amid unconfirmed reports that large numbers of Russian soldiers have surrendered, Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar said the government is launching shells filled with flyers encouraging more of them to lay down their arms.

“Russians use you as cannon fodder,” the flyers read. “Your life doesn’t mean anything for them. You don’t need this war. Surrender to Armed Forces of Ukraine.”

Admiration for what Ukraine has accomplished on the battlefield lately is warranted. Declaring victory? That would be premature, observers and U.S. officials say.

The Biden administration has refrained from publicly celebrating the Ukrainians’ stunning gains of the last few days — particularly in the northeast — which have added up to 2,300 square miles of reclaimed territory, their President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

The sight of Russian troops in hasty retreat has brought jubilation to Ukrainians, but XXXJohn Kirby declined to call it a turning point in a war that started more than 200 days ago, pointing out the unpredictability of military conflicts. 

Kirby said the Russian military still has problems with command and control, logistics and unit cohesion but is still a very large and powerful military, and Putin still has a lot of military power left at his disposal.

“They clearly still have a military capable of inflicting great damage,” he said.

— Maureen Groppe

Putin aide: Criticism of war allowed, ‘but the line is very, very thin’

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, asked about simmering criticism at home of the war effort, said it was permissible by law, but with limits. Peskov cited the adverse reactions as an example of “pluralism,” adding that Russians overall remain firmly in support of President Vladimir Putin. The Defense Ministry has taken a beating on Russian social media – and even among some Russian TV commentators – for what in some cases have been viewed as hasty, sloppy retreats.

“As for other points of view, critical points of view, as long as they remain within the law, this is pluralism, but the line is very, very thin,”  Peskov said. “One must be very careful here.”

He said plans still call for continuing the war until goals are achieved. No plans to greatly increase troop strength through a draft have been made, he said.

Contributing: Maureen Groppe, USA TODAY; The Associated Press