Ukraine said its forces have retook more settlements in Kherson, one of four partially Russian-occupied regions that President Vladimir Putin formally incorporated into the country, in Europe’s biggest annexation of territory since World War II. World War.
With the Russian military withdrawing from the front lines in southern and eastern Ukraine, the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a speech late on Wednesday that Novovoskresenske, Novohryhorivka and Petropavlivka, northeast of the city of Kherson , had been “released”.
At the United Nations, Russia is pushing for a secret vote instead of a public vote next week, when the 193-member UN General Assembly considers whether to condemn its annexation of Donetsk and Luhansk, in the east, and Kherson and Zaporizhia, in the south, after the holding of referendums.
Putin on Wednesday signed a law to incorporate the regions into Russia. Ukraine says it will never accept an illegal takeover of its territory by force. kyiv and the West say the referendums were rigged votes held at gunpoint.
The new law would incorporate some 18% of Ukrainian territory into Russia. Putin says that he wants to ensure Russia’s security and protect Russian-speakers in Ukraine. kyiv accuses Moscow of grabbing land.
Russia’s decision to annex the regions raises the possibility of an escalation of the war, as Putin and other leaders have said they could use nuclear weapons to protect Russian territory, including the annexed regions.
Ukraine has said it will not cower in the face of any nuclear threat, while Zelensky said he and his top military officials have met to discuss taking back all lands occupied by Russia.
Switching from Ukrainian to Russian, Zelensky addressed the pro-Moscow forces, telling them that they have already lost.
“Ukrainians know what they are fighting for. And more and more Russian citizens realize that they must die simply because one person does not want to end the war,” he said, referring to Putin.
Moscow’s map of Ukraine seems to show the shrinking of the areas it controls. A map of “new regions” published by the state news agency RIA included the entire territory of the Ukrainian provinces, but some parts were labeled as under Ukrainian military control.
The Ukrainian army in the south said its forces had killed at least 58 Russian fighters, destroyed nine tanks, 17 armored vehicles and four howitzers.
Overnight, seven Russian missiles hit the city of Zaporizhia, damaging or destroying several buildings and causing fires and injuries, regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said. “Rescue teams are already pulling people out of the rubble,” he said.
Reuters could not immediately verify the reports.
BODIES IN THE TREES
Ukrainian forces have recaptured thousands of square kilometers of territory since early September, including dozens of settlements in recent days.
Thousands of Russian troops have withdrawn after the collapse of the front line, first in the northeast and, since the beginning of this week, also in the south.
Putin celebrated the annexations at a Kremlin ceremony followed by a Red Square concert last week, just hours before Ukrainian forces captured Liman, the main Russian stronghold north of Donetsk.
On Wednesday, the bodies of two Russian soldiers were still lying in trees on opposite sides of a road near Liman, next to the wrecked hulls of cars and a van.
Occasional rumblings echoed from distant fighting as Ukrainian troops advanced along a north-south route that serves as one of the last supply lines for Russian soldiers in Luhansk province.
In Limán, Nina, 73, was waiting for an aid delivery next to a municipal building. There were 15 bodies of Russian soldiers lying in her street, she said.
“No one removes them. It’s the fifth day they’ve been lying there. And we have the smell,” he said.
In one of his first moves to assert his dominance over the four annexed provinces, Putin ordered the Russian state to take control of the Zaporizhia power plant, the largest in Europe, which is still run by Ukrainian engineers despite having been captured early in the war by Russian forces.
The UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, said it is aware of plans to restart a reactor at the plant, where all six reactors have been shut down for weeks.
The plant is right on the front line, on the Russian-controlled shore of a reservoir with Ukrainian forces on the opposite shore. Both sides have warned of the danger of a nuclear disaster.
In recent days, Russia arrested the Ukrainian director of the plant. He was released, but will not return to work. The director of Ukraine’s state nuclear power company Energoatom, Petro Kotin, said he will take over the plant and urged the workers not to sign any documents with its Russian occupants.
kyiv has long accused Moscow of planning to switch the Ukrainian power grid plant to the Russian one, which it says would increase the risk of an accident.
IAEA Director Rafael Grossi, who will visit kyiv and Moscow this week, said negotiations on a safe zone around the plant are more important than ever.