Ukraine is reclaiming more territory that Russia is trying to

Ukraine is reclaiming more territory that Russia is trying to annex

Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Ukrainian forces on Monday made further gains in their broad-based counteroffensive, advancing in the very areas Russia is trying to annex and challenging its efforts to bolster its military with fresh troops and its threats Strengthen defenses of incorporated areas by any means, including nuclear weapons.

In their latest breakthrough, Ukrainian forces pushed into Moscow’s defenses in the strategic southern Kherson region, one of the four areas in Ukraine that Russia is absorbing.

Ukraine’s advances have become so obvious that even Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, who normally focuses on his own military’s victories and enemy casualties, has been forced to acknowledge it.

“With numerically superior tank units in the direction of Zolota Balka and Oleksandrivka, the enemy managed to penetrate deep into our defenses,” Konashenkov said, referring to two cities. He linked this to claims that Russian forces had inflicted heavy casualties on the Ukrainian military.

Ukrainian forces have been scrambling to retake the Kherson region, in contrast to their breakout offensive in the northeast around the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, which began last month.

As the front lines shifted, the political theater in Moscow continued, with Russia’s lower house of parliament approving the annexation treaties for Kherson, Zaporizhia, Donetsk and Luhansk to join Russia. The upper house will follow on Tuesday as the culmination of annexation “referendums” the Kremlin orchestrated last week — actions the UN chief and western nations have declared illegal.

Russia’s moves to incorporate Ukraine’s regions, as well as President Vladimir Putin’s efforts to mobilize more troops, have been so hasty that government officials have had difficulty explaining and implementing them. Putin admitted last week that some of the drafted men had been wrongly selected and ordered them sent home. On Monday, the question was even more fundamental: which areas of Ukraine exactly is Russia trying to annex?

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Donetsk and Luhansk would join Russia with the administrative borders that existed there before a conflict erupted there in 2014 between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces. But he added that the borders of the other two regions – Zaporizhia and Kherson – are undefined.

“We will continue to discuss this with the residents of these regions,” Peskov said without elaborating.

A senior Russian lawmaker took a different view. Pavel Krasheninnikov said Zaporizhzhia will be absorbed within its “administrative borders,” meaning Moscow will incorporate parts of the region still under Kiev’s control. He said a similar logic will apply to Kherson, but that Russia will include two districts of the neighboring Mykolaiv region, which Moscow holds.

Putin’s land grab has threatened to take the conflict to a dangerous new level, with him and his top officials warning of the possible use of nuclear weapons and ordering the partial mobilization of troops. It also prompted Ukraine to apply for fast-track NATO membership.

Ukraine has been ramping up its counteroffensive in the Kherson region since the summer, relentlessly destroying Russian supply lines and pushing into Russian-controlled areas west of the Dnieper. The Ukrainian military has successfully used US-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launchers to repeatedly hit the main bridge over the Dnieper and a causeway that served as a second main crossing. It also hit pontoon bridges through which Russia supplied its troops.

In addition to the areas of the Kherson region cited by the Russian Defense Ministry, various sources showed Ukrainian flags, stationed soldiers or other unconfirmed signs that Kiev forces had recaptured the villages of Archanhelske, Myroliubivka, Khreshchenivka, Mykhalivka and Novovorontsovka.

The situation in the region’s capital, also known as Kherson, is so precarious that the Russian authorities are restricting the departure of people, the Ukrainian Presidential Office said.

Moscow-appointed Kherson regional head Vladimir Saldo said Ukrainian troops tried to advance along the west bank of the Dnieper towards Dudkhany to reach a key dam at Nova Kakhovka, but Russian warplanes destroyed two Ukrainian battalions and halted the offensive . Saldo added that Russian forces repelled Ukraine’s attempted invasion of the Kherson region from Mykolaiv and Kryvyi Rih. His claims could not be independently verified.

Despite successful attacks on supply lines, Ukraine’s offensive in the south has been less successful than in the north-east, as the open terrain exposes the attacking forces to Russian artillery and air strikes. Still, Russian military bloggers near Moscow have acknowledged that Ukraine has a superior manpower backed by tanks in the region.

A Russian-deployed official in the Kherson region, Kirill Stremousov, said in a video that Ukrainian forces “broke through a little deeper” but insisted “everything is under control” and that Russia’s “defense system is working”.

Ukraine reported progress in other areas Russia is annexing. Ukrainian Luhansk region governor Serhiy Haidai said Kiev’s forces recaptured the village of Torske, just 20 kilometers from the city of Kreminna. Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said the Kreminna-Svatove area is of high strategic importance.

“Kreminna is key to controlling the entire Luhansk region because the Russians have no longer any defense lines further out[of the city],” he told The Associated Press. “The recapture of this city opens up an operational space for the Ukrainians to advance quickly to the state border with Russia.”

Zhdanov said Russian troops in that area had withdrawn from the Kharkiv region. In the Kharkiv region across the Oskil River, 50 kilometers (31 miles) north of Lyman, the Ukrainian army reportedly liberated most of Borova. Local officials released video while driving through recently retaken roads and waving the Ukrainian flag through a window.

“You’re finally home. After all, it’s Ukraine. Glory to Ukraine!” someone shouted from the street.

Ukraine also recaptured a strategic eastern city, Lyman, which the Russians had used as a key logistics and front-line transportation hub. Lyman is located in the Donetsk region near the border with Luhansk.

Ukraine’s push to retake territory has embarrassed the Kremlin and prompted rare domestic criticism of Putin’s war. Tens of thousands of Russian men fled Russia after the September 21 call. Many flew to Turkey, one of the few countries that still have flights to Russia. Others drove away in cars, causing lengthy traffic jams on Russia’s borders with Georgia, Kazakhstan and Finland, among others.

Criticism of Russia at home and abroad has only spurred senior Russian officials to come out stronger in defending Putin’s actions.

Addressing lawmakers, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the United States of rallying allies to confront Russia in Ukraine. He said it was as if Nazi Germany relied on the resources of most of Europe when it invaded the Soviet Union in 1941.

“The US mobilized virtually the entire collective West to turn Ukraine into an instrument of war against Russia, just as Hitler mobilized military resources of most European nations to attack the Soviet Union,” Lavrov said.


Yuras Karmanau contributed from Tallinn, Estonia


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