Ukraine marches on into liberated countries, separatists call for urgent referendum

  • Ukraine says its troops are advancing to Oskil .’s eastern shore
  • Governor says troops have towns near Lysychansk . intrude
  • Separatist leader calls for urgent referendum to join Russia

IZIUM, Ukraine, Sept. 20 (Reuters) – Ukraine said its troops have marched further east into area recently abandoned by Russia, paving the way for a possible attack on Moscow’s occupation forces in the Donbas region as Kiev is looking for more western weapons.

In a sign of nervousness from a Moscow-backed government in Donbas over the success of Ukraine’s recent offensive, the leader called for urgent referendums on the region’s accession to Russia.

“The occupiers are clearly in a panic,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a televised speech late Monday, adding that he was now focusing on “speed” in liberated areas.

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“The speed at which our troops move. The speed at which normal life is restored,” Zelenskiy said.

The Ukrainian leader also hinted that he would use a video address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday to call on countries to speed up arms and aid deliveries.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure that Ukraine’s needs are met at all levels – defense, financial, economic, diplomatic,” Zelenskiy said.

Serhiy Gaidai, the Ukrainian governor of Luhansk, a province in the Donbas now under control of Russian forces, said Ukrainian armed forces have regained full control of the Luhansk village of Bilohorivka and are preparing to fight to take over the entire province. recapture.

“Every inch will be fought for,” Gaidai wrote on Telegram. “The enemy is preparing their defense. So we won’t just march in.”

In another key milestone for the counter-offensive in the northeastern region of Kharkov, Ukrainian forces said troops had crossed the Oskil River over the weekend. The river flows south into the Siversky Donets, which meanders through the Donbas, the main center of the Russian invasion.

Ahead is Luhansk, a base for Russia’s separatist henchmen since 2014 and completely in Russian hands since July after some of the war’s bloodiest battles.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield reports of either side.

Denis Pushilin, head of the Moscow-based separatist government in Donetsk, called on his fellow separatist leader in Luhansk to join their efforts to prepare a referendum on joining Russia. read more

“Our actions must be synchronized,” Pushilin said in a video posted on social media on Monday.

GRIM GRAVEN

Ukraine is still evaluating what happened in areas under Russian control for months before a flight of Russian troops drastically changed the dynamics of the war earlier this month.

At a sprawling makeshift cemetery in the woods near the recaptured city of Izium, Ukrainian forensic experts have so far exhumed 146 bodies buried without coffins, Kharkiv regional governor Oleh Synehubov said Monday. About 450 graves have been found at the site, Zelenskiy said

As they fanned out in groups under the trees, workers used shovels to dig up the partially decomposed bodies, some of which locals say had been lying in the city streets long after they died before being buried.

The government has not yet said how most people died, although officials say dozens were killed in the shelling of an apartment building, and there are indications that others were killed by shrapnel.

According to preliminary investigations, four showed signs of torture with their hands tied behind their backs, or in one case a rope tied around their necks, Serhiy Bolvinov, the chief of investigation police in the Kharkiv region, told Reuters at the cemetery.

Bolvinov said the vast majority of the bodies appeared to be civilians. Local residents have identified their dead by linking names to numbers on thin wooden crosses marking the graves. read more

“Soldiers had their hands tied, there were signs of torture on civilians,” Bolvinov said. Ukraine says 17 soldiers were in a mass grave at the site. read more

Reuters could not confirm the allegations of torture by Ukraine.

The Kremlin denied on Monday that Russia was responsible for the atrocities that Ukraine said it uncovered in the recaptured area.

“It is a lie, and of course we will defend the truth in this story,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who compared the allegations to incidents earlier in the war where Russia claimed without evidence that the atrocities were committed by Ukrainians.

ALARM ABOVE NUCLEAR POWER PLANT

Ukraine accused Russian troops on Monday of shelling the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant in the southern region of Mykolaiv.

An explosion occurred 300 meters (yards) away from the reactors and damaged power plant buildings shortly after midnight on Monday, Ukraine’s Energoatom nuclear power plant said in a statement.

The reactors were not damaged and no personnel were injured, it said, publishing photos of a huge crater allegedly created by the blast.

“Russia is endangering the whole world. We must stop it before it is too late,” Zelenskiy said in a social media post.

The attacks will raise global concerns about the potential for a nuclear disaster, which has already been heightened by fighting around another Ukrainian nuclear power plant to the south, Zaporizhzhya, which was captured by Russian forces in March. Moscow has ignored international calls to withdraw and demilitarize it.

In another setback in Zaporizhzhya, the IAEA said a power line used to power the plant was disconnected on Sunday, leaving it without backup power from the grid.

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Reporting by Reuters agencies; Written by Frank Jack Daniel and Rami Ayyub; Editing by Cynthia Osterman

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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