Kyiv, Ukraine — (AP) — Ukrainian troops made more headway on Monday in a counteroffensive on at least two fronts, advancing in areas Russia is trying to absorb and challenging its efforts to engage new forces and their arrogance against all. Threats to defend the combined area, including nuclear weapons.
In their latest breakthrough, Ukrainian forces broke through Moscow’s defenses in the strategic South Kherson region, one of four areas of Ukraine that Russia is trying to seize and desperately defend.
Kyiv’s military has also consolidated victories in the east and other major battlefields, re-establishing control of Ukraine, as Russian President Vladimir Putin has attempted to overcome manpower, weapons, troop morale and logistical problems, while at the same time domestic and International criticism has also intensified. He faced confusion and confusion at home over the mobilization of some of his troops and the establishment of new Russian borders.
Ukraine’s progress has become so evident that even Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, who usually focuses on the success of his own troops and the losses of the enemy, is forced to admit it.
“With the numerical superiority of tank forces in the direction of Zolota Balka and Oleksandrivka, the enemy managed to penetrate deep into our fortifications,” Konashenkov said on Monday, referring to two towns in the Kherson region. He combined this with the claim that Russian troops inflicted heavy losses on Ukrainian troops.
In contrast to a successful breakout offensive in the northeast around the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, which began last month, Ukrainian forces have been struggling to retake the Kherson region.
Since the summer, Ukraine has been on a counteroffensive in the Kherson region, relentlessly hitting Russian supply lines and invading Russian-held areas west of the Dnieper. The Ukrainian military used U.S.-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launchers to repeatedly hit a major bridge across the Dnieper and a dam serving as a second major border crossing. It also hit a pontoon that Russia uses to resupply troops.
As the front shifted, the political scene in Moscow continued, with the lower house of the Russian parliament signing the annexation treaties of Kherson, Zaporozhye, Donetsk and Luhansk into Russia. The upper house will follow suit on Tuesday, the culmination of last week’s annexation “referendum” orchestrated by the Kremlin – actions that the UN president and the West say are illegal.
Russia’s move to consolidate Ukraine, as well as Putin’s efforts to mobilize more troops, were too hasty for government officials to explain and implement. Putin admitted last week that some of the conscripts had been wrongly selected and ordered to send them home. On Monday, the question became more fundamental: What parts of Ukraine exactly does Russia want to include?
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Donetsk and Luhansk were joining Russia, whose administrative borders existed before a clash between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces erupted in 2014. But he added that the boundaries of the other two regions – Zaporozhye and Kherson – have yet to be determined.
“We will continue to discuss this with the residents of these areas,” Peskov said, without elaborating.
A senior Russian lawmaker took a different view. Pavel Krasheninnikov said that Zaporozhye would be absorbed within its “administrative borders,” meaning Moscow would incorporate parts of the region still under Kyiv control. Similar logic would apply to Kherson, but Russia would include two districts in the neighbouring Mykolaiv region owned by Moscow, he said.
Putin’s land grab threatened to push the conflict to dangerous new heights, and he and his top officials warned of the possible use of nuclear weapons and ordered the mobilization of some troops. It also prompted Ukraine to apply for fast-track NATO membership.
In addition to the Kherson region cited by the Russian Ministry of Defense, various sources show Ukrainian flags, deployed soldiers or other indications that forces in Kyiv have recaptured Arkhan-Khersk, Myrolyubivka, Khresh Villages such as Chenivka, Mihalivka and Novo Vorontsovka. Ukrainian officials typically do not confirm territorial gains until they are sure they are sustainable.
The situation in the regional capital, also known as Kherson, is so precarious that Russian authorities are restricting people from leaving, Ukraine’s president’s office said.
Still, Russia claims to have had some success in fighting back. Moscow-appointed head of the Kherson region, Vladimir Sardo, said Ukrainian troops tried to advance along the west bank of the Dnieper towards Duchany in an attempt to reach a key dam in Novi Kakhovka, but Russian warplanes destroyed it Two Ukrainian battalions and stopped the offensive. Sardo added that Russian troops blocked Ukrainian attempts to enter the Kherson region from Mykolaiv and Kryvyi Rih.
Kirill Stremousov, a Russian official in the Kherson region, admitted in a video that Ukrainian forces had “breakthrough a little deeper” but insisted that “everything is under control” and that Russia’s “Defense systems are working”.
Neither Saldo nor Stremousov’s claims could be independently verified.
Despite the successful strikes on supply lines, the Ukrainian offensive in the south was less successful than in the northeast, as the open terrain exposed the attacking forces to Russian artillery and air strikes. Nonetheless, Russian military bloggers close to Moscow acknowledge that Ukraine has excellent manpower in the region, backed by tanks.
Ukraine reports that Russia is making progress in other areas of annexation. The governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region, Shershi Hayday, said troops in Kyiv had recaptured the village of Tosk, 20 kilometers (12 miles) from the city of Kreminna. Olezhdanov, a Ukrainian military analyst, said the area was “the key to controlling the entire Luhansk region, because further afield (the city), the Russians did not have more lines of defense.”
“The recapture of the city has opened up combat space for the Ukrainians to rapidly advance to the border of the country with Russia,” Zhdanov told The Associated Press.
He said Russian troops had withdrawn from the Kharkiv region. Ukrainian forces have reportedly liberated much of Borova in the Kharkiv region across the Oskil River, 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Leman. Officials released a video waving Ukrainian flags as they drove down the reoccupied streets.
“Finally, you’re home. Ukraine at last. Glory to Ukraine!” shouted an onlooker.
Elsewhere in the Kharkiv region, a Russian missile attack on a hospital in Kupiansk, killing a doctor and wounding a nurse, also caused heavy damage. Reporting by Oleh Syniehubov. At least 24 civilians were killed last week when a convoy trying to escape from Kupiansk was attacked.
Ukraine has also recaptured the strategic eastern city of Lehman, which the Russians had used as an important logistics and transportation hub. Lehman is located in the Donetsk region bordering Luhansk.
Ukraine’s efforts to retake territory have embarrassed the Kremlin and sparked rare domestic criticism of Putin’s war. Tens of thousands of Russian men have fled Russia since September 19. 21 call. Many fly to Turkey, one of the few countries that maintains air links with Russia. Others drove away, causing lengthy traffic jams along Russia’s borders with Georgia, Kazakhstan and Finland.
Criticism of Russia has prompted senior Russian officials to more strongly defend Putin’s actions.
Speaking to lawmakers on Monday, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the United States of rallying allies to confront Russia in Ukraine, just as Nazi Germany relied on European resources when it invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.
“Just as Hitler mobilized the military resources of most European countries to attack the Soviet Union, the United States mobilized almost the entire Western collective to turn Ukraine into an instrument of war against Russia,” Lavrov said.
Russia’s actions over the disposal of confiscated land and facilities have sparked an international outcry, especially when it comes to Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. On Friday, Russian troops blindfolded and detained Ihor Mulashov, the director of the Russian-occupied Zaporozhye nuclear power plant in Ukraine. On Monday, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations nuclear watchdog, said Mulashov had been released.
Yuras Karmanau from Tallinn, Estonia
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