Ukraine is claiming its troops have made major breakthroughs in both Luhansk to the northeast and Kherson to the south, delivering a defiant military response to Russia’s illegal claims to have annexed those regions.
Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, announced on Wednesday that the “de-occupation of Luhansk region has begun.”
“Several settlements have already been liberated from the Russian army, and the armed forces of Ukraine there are already raising the Ukrainian flag,” he said on Telegram.
Gaidai’s announcment came only hours after President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces were pushing forward rapidly against the Russians in their attempt to claw back territory around the crucial port city of Kherson in the south.
In a major advance over past days, Kyiv has wrested back significant chunks of land along the western bank of the Dnieper river in the region of Kherson, which was occupied by Russia early after the start of its full-scale invasion in late February.
The Ukrainian successes followed the almost complete liberation of the Kharkiv region in the northeast.
“The Ukrainian army is carrying out a pretty fast and powerful advance in the south of our country,” Zelenskyy said in his address to the nation on Tuesday night.
Sounding an upbeat note on the latest offensive, the general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces described Russian troops in southern Ukraine as demoralized, abandoning their positions and retreating “to a safe distance.”
During the retreat, the Russians are destroying ammunition stocks and are trying to demolish bridges and river crossings in order to slow down the advancing Ukrainians, the military command in Kyiv said on Tuesday evening.
Ukraine’s military command is being very cautious about disclosing its exact gains of the past days around Kherson. However, judging by the maps of controlled areas, which the Russian defense ministry presented during its daily briefings on Monday and Tuesday, it appears as if the Ukrainians drove forward more than 30 kilometers in a single day.
According to Russian military bloggers, the defeat was a result of crucial shortages of manpower and weapons.
Although Russia is counting on the injection of recently mobilized personnel, it’s not clear whether non-professional units with limited training can dramatically change the situation on the frontlines.
According to Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, some 200,000 reservists out of the planned 300,000 people have already been called up.
However, Russia has problems “with certain types of support” during the mobilization, specifically an inability to provide accommodation, uniforms and food for newly drafted servicemen in some Russian regions, the Ukrainian general staff said in its morning update on Wednesday.
In the eastern region of Luhansk, the authorities loyal to Moscow are calling up local residents and immediately sending them “to replenish the units that suffered the greatest losses” without conducting a medical checkup or offering any training, according to Kyiv.
Gaidai, the Ukrainian governor of the Luhansk region, said on Tuesday that the residents will “soon” be asked to leave major cities of the region for other localities, “where they can wait out the counteroffensive.”
“After liberation, we will not allow people to enter major cities. It is impossible to start the heating season there; everything is broken,” he added in a tweet.