Ukraine has recaptured a village close to the eastern city of Lysychansk in a small but symbolic victory that means Russia no longer has full control over the Luhansk region, one of Vladimir Putin’s main war targets.
Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said Ukraine’s armed forces have “complete control” over Bilohorivka. ‘It’s a suburb of Lysychansk. Soon we’ll be chasing these bastards out of there with a broom,” he said. “Step by step, inch by inch, we will free our entire country from the invaders.”
Video footage shared on Telegram shows Ukrainian soldiers patrolling a destroyed street on foot. Russian troops had occupied the entire province of Luhansk for the past two and a half months. After a long and grueling battle, the General Staff of Ukraine decided to withdraw from the cities of Sievierdonetsk and Lysychansk in July.
Over the past 12 days, Ukrainian regiments in the northeast have launched a stunning counter-offensive, liberating more than 300 settlements in the Kharkiv region and forcing Russian units to flee in disorder. The reclaimed area is half the size of Wales and extends to the Russian border.
There were unconfirmed reports Monday of Ukrainian troops entering Lysychansk. There now seems little chance that the Kremlin will be able to take control of the entire Donbas, including the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. In March, Putin said this was the aim of his “special military operation” in Ukraine after his failed attempt to take the capital Kiev.
Over the weekend, Russian forces shelled the city of Kupiansk from new, hastily built defensive positions just east of the Oskil River. Hundreds of people were evacuated. Ukraine on Friday said it had taken control of the entire city, crossing a pontoon bridge to the left bank of the river in amphibious vehicles.
Ukrainian officials say 200 Russian soldiers were killed in an attack on Sunday when a rocket hit a former bus shelter where they were stationed, in the frontline town of Svatove.
According to the Institute for the Study of War, Russia has not sent reinforcements. It is now under pressure and vulnerable to another counter-offensive, the think tank said.
Governor Haidai said leaders of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic were beginning to panic. There have been numerous reports of robbery squads arresting men in the street and shooting them for the military. Mobile communications and the internet have stalled to prevent people from learning about Moscow’s military misadventures, he claimed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy accused the Kremlin of reckless behavior on Monday after a grenade landed 300 meters from a nuclear power plant in the southern region of Mykolaiv. The missile damaged buildings and blew out windows. Three power lines were temporarily shut down at the Pivdennoukrainsk plant.
Ukraine’s state-owned nuclear company Energoatom said all three nuclear reactors were operating normally and had not been damaged. “Fortunately, there were no casualties among the station personnel,” it says. The agency released two photos showing a large crater that it said was caused by the blast.
“They have forgotten what a nuclear power plant is. Russia is endangering the whole world. We must stop it before it is too late,” Zelenskiy wrote on his Telegram channel. He has previously accused Putin of nuclear terrorism and blackmail and has called on the international community to intervene.
The Mykolaiv region has been under constant missile attack from Russian forces since the start of the invasion. Ukraine has launched a counter-offensive to liberate the nearby city of Kherson. It has progressed more slowly than in the Kharkov region, over a flat steppe terrain and with entrenched Russian units.
Another Ukrainian nuclear power plant, in Zaporizhzhya, the largest in Europe and located about 250 kilometers east of the Mykolaiv site, was shut down this month due to Russian shelling, raising concerns about a possible nuclear disaster.
Russia and Ukraine have blamed each other for shelling the Zaporizhzhya factory, which is owned by Russian troops but operated by Ukrainian personnel. The shelling damaged buildings and disrupted power lines.
The UN nuclear watchdog said this weekend that one of the four main power lines in Zaporizhzhya had been repaired and the plant was once again supplying electricity from the Ukrainian grid.
Russian soldiers have used the area to shell the Ukrainian-controlled towns of Nikopol and Marhanets across the Dnieper River. More than 40 countries and the International Atomic Energy Agency have urged Putin to return control of the station to Ukraine.