Ukraine has expanded its hold on recently recaptured territory as troops marched further east into areas abandoned by Russia, paving the way for a possible attack on occupation forces in the Donbas region.
Most important points:
- Ukrainian president alluded to an appeal to the international community to get weapons and aid to Ukraine more quickly
- The Luhansk governor says Ukrainian forces have regained control of Kreminna and the village of Bilohorivka, which fell in July after weeks of fierce fighting.
- Ukrainian troops also crossed the Oskil River, another key milestone for the counter-offensive in the northeast Kharkov region
In a sign of nervousness from a Moscow-backed government in Donbas over the success of the Ukrainian offensive, the leader called for urgent referendums on the region’s accession to Russia.
“The occupiers are clearly in a panic,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a regular televised speech, adding that he was now focusing on “speed” in liberated areas.
“The speed at which our troops are moving. The speed at which normal life is being restored,” said Mr Zelenskyy, who also hinted that he would use a video address to the UN General Assembly this week to call on the international community for weapons and help get Ukraine faster.
Serhiy Gaidai, the Ukrainian governor of Luhansk, a province in the Donbas now under control of Russian forces, said Ukrainian forces have regained control of the city of Kreminna and the village of Bilohorivka close to the city of Lysychansk, which had been destroyed after weeks of violent clashes. fighting has fallen. in July.
“The Luhansk region is next door. The occupation is not far away,” he wrote on Telegram.
Ukrainian troops also crossed the Oskil River this weekend, Ukrainian armed forces wrote on Telegram late Sunday, marking another key milestone for the counter-offensive in the northeast Kharkov region.
The river flows south into the Siverskyi 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.
A Russian-backed separatist official in Donetsk, the other province in Donbas, said 13 people were killed in artillery shelling in the city of Donetsk on Monday.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield reports of either side.
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, Mr Zelenskyy . 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 have said dozens were killed in the shelling of an apartment building, and there were 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.
“Soldiers had their hands tied, there were signs of torture of civilians,” Bolvinov said.
Ukraine said 17 soldiers were in a mass grave at the site.
Reuters could not confirm the allegations of torture by Ukraine.
The Kremlin denied on Monday that Russia was responsible for the atrocities Ukraine said it had uncovered in the recaptured area.
“It’s 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 about 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 away from the reactors and damaged power plant buildings shortly after midnight, Ukraine’s nuclear power plant Energoatom 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,” Mr Zelenskyy 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.
Russia’s rapid losses in recent weeks have shaken a Kremlin public relations campaign that has never strayed from the line that the “special military operation” is “following according to plan”.
Alla Pugacheva, 73, Russia’s most celebrated pop diva since the Soviet era, went on to become by far the largest mainstream cultural figure to oppose the war, with a post on Instagram in which he “denounced the deaths of our boys for illusory causes our country turning into a pariah and worsening the lives of our citizens”.
In London, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal and First Lady Olena Zelenska attended the funeral of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II.
Russia was excluded from the ceremony.