Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Ukrainian military had made significant and rapid gains against Russian forces in the past week, retaking dozens of towns in southern and western regions. east of the country that Russia has declared annexed.
“This week alone, since the Russian pseudo-referendum, dozens of population centers have been liberated. They are in the Kherson, Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk regions all together,” he said in a speech Tuesday night.
Russia decided to annex those regions after holding what it called “referendums” for several days beginning on September 23, votes that were denounced by kyiv and Western countries as illegal and coercive.
Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed its formal annexation last Friday.
Zelensky mentioned eight small towns in Kherson, in southern Ukraine, as recently reconquered. Reuters was unable to independently verify his statement.
A video released by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry appeared to show the raising of the Ukrainian flag over one such community, Davydiv Brid, in Kherson.
Ukrainian forces on Monday retook several villages in an advance along the strategic Dnieper River, Ukrainian officials and a Russian-backed leader in the area said.
In the east of the country, Ukrainian forces have extended an offensive after capturing the main Russian stronghold north of Donetsk, the city of Liman.
Russian soldiers in the Donetsk and Kherson regions have been forced to withdraw in recent days, and appear to be struggling to stop an increasingly Western-equipped Ukrainian army.
“In some areas of the front line it was possible to extend the zone that we maintain by 10-20 kilometers,” the Southern Operational Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Wednesday.
The Russian military is destroying its ammunition stockpiles and trying to destroy bridges and crossings to stop the Ukrainian advance, the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in its daily report.
In Kherson, retreating Russian forces were laying mines on “infrastructure installations” and homes, he said.
In the past 24 hours, Russia has lost 31 soldiers and more than 40 pieces of equipment, including eight tanks, 26 armored vehicles and a large-caliber howitzer, he said.
Putin was expected to sign a law on Tuesday night to formally annex the four Ukrainian regions. They make up about 18% of the territory of Ukraine and kyiv, and their Western allies say the annexation is illegal and will not be recognized.
Russia does not fully control any of the four regions it claims — Donetsk and Luhansk in eastern Ukraine and Zaporizhia and Kherson in the south — and the Kremlin has said it has yet to determine the borders of the annexed territory.
Russia has escalated its seven-month war with the annexation campaign, a military mobilization and warnings of possible use of nuclear weapons to protect its territory.
Moscow hopes the “partial mobilization” it announced two weeks ago could help reverse a series of battlefield setbacks.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu was quoted by the RIA news agency on Tuesday as saying that Russia has so far called up more than 200,000 reservists out of a planned 300,000 men.
However, many Russian men have fled the country to avoid fighting in Ukraine and Russian lawyers say they are working flat out to advise those who want to avoid conscription.
Russian Defense Ministry maps released on Tuesday appeared to show a rapid withdrawal of Russian soldiers from areas in eastern and southern Ukraine, where they have been under heavy pressure from the Ukrainian counter-offensive.
The ministry’s daily briefing video did not mention any withdrawal, but on the maps used to show the location of alleged Russian attacks, the shaded area designating Russian military control is much smaller than it was the day before.
On the eastern front, Denis Pushilin, the Russian-backed leader in Donetsk, said the Russian military was building a defense line around the city of Kreminna after falling back.
THE UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY WILL MEET
US President Joe Biden told Zelensky in a call that Washington will provide kyiv with $625 million in new security aid, including launchers for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). ).
Biden also reiterated that the United States “will never recognize” Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory. Earlier, the European Union also rejected Moscow’s “illegal annexation” and urged it to unconditionally withdraw its troops.
Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov said in a social media post that the US decision to send more military aid to Ukraine poses a threat to Russia’s interests, raising the risk of a military clash between Russia and Ukraine. West.
The UN General Assembly is expected to vote next week on a draft resolution denouncing Russia’s action, according to diplomatic sources. Russia vetoed a similar resolution in the 15-member Security Council last week.
In a decree Tuesday, Zelensky formally declared any talks with Putin “impossible,” though he left the door open for talks with Moscow if it has a new leader.
The Kremlin has said what it calls its “special military operation” in Ukraine will not end if kyiv scraps talks, adding “it takes two sides to negotiate.”