Moscow said earlier this month it was withdrawing its invading forces from the vicinity of the capital Kiev to focus its military efforts on capturing Donetsk and Lugansk in eastern Ukraine.
The defense ministry said Russian forces had expelled Kiev’s army from Velyka Komyshuvakha and Zavody in the northeastern region of Kharkiv and taken control of Zarichne and Novotoshkivske in Donetsk.
Zarichne is just 50 kilometers (30 miles) from the regional center of Kramatorsk, where this month Russian attacks on a train station that brought residents east to safety left dozens dead.
The defense ministry warned that Russian forces are “continuing an offensive toward Nyzhnye and Orikhiv” in the central Zaporizhzhya region.
Pro-Russian separatists have controlled the Donetsk and Lugansk regions since 2014, when the Kremlin annexed the Crimean peninsula after street demonstrations ousting Ukraine’s Moscow-friendly leader.
Russia has said the offensive to the east would create a land border between separatist-occupied territory and the Black Sea peninsula.