Russian President Vladimir Putin’s plans to annex four huge regions of Ukraine continued to falter Tuesday after Kyiv’s forces smashed their way through Russian defenses in the south of the country, claiming their biggest breakthrough in the region since the invasion began.
Ukrainian fighters also seized more land in their continuing offensive in eastern Ukraine, retaking areas that the Kremlin claims are now part of the Russian Federation.
The Ukrainian military’s southern operational command said 31 Russian tanks and one multiple rocket launcher had been destroyed Monday night, while a Russian-installed leader in the region acknowledged that Ukrainian troops had captured several villages along the strategically important Dnipro River earlier in the day.
The major breakthrough comes after Ukrainian soldiers advanced in two of the four occupied regions which Putin last week annexed following sham referendums. The land grab—which has been condemned as illegal under international law—has been bolstered in Moscow by a shambolic military draft of 300,000 new troops and an alarming round of nuclear threats.
Vladimir Saldo, the Kremlin’s puppet leader in occupied areas of Kherson—one of the annexed regions—told Russian state television that Ukrainian forces had recaptured the town of Dudchany along the Dnipro River. “There are settlements that are occupied by Ukrainian forces,” Saldo added. The town is around 20 miles south of where the front was located before the breakthrough, suggesting the fastest advance of Kyiv’s troops in the south.
Before the development, Russian soldiers had been dug into fortified positions along a mostly stationary line since the early days of the war. The advance of Ukrainian troops is hitting vital supply lines for up to 25,000 Russian soldiers positioned on the Dnipro’s west bank, with Russian soldiers already being forced to use makeshift crossings after Kyiv destroyed the river’s main bridges. “It’s tense, let’s put it that way,” Reuters claims Saldo said on Russian state television.
“The fact we have broken through the front means that… the Russian army has already lost the ability to attack, and today or tomorrow it could lose the ability to defend,” Oleh Zhdanov, a military analyst based in Kyiv, told Reuters.
The latest breakthrough comes after Moscow was humiliated by the loss of Lyman, the main Russian stronghold in the north of Donetsk. Donetsk—along with Kherson, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhia—had been officially annexed at a Kremlin ceremony only hours earlier. Russian authorities held a concert in Moscow’s Red Square to celebrate the annexation even as its soldiers were being kicked out of the claimed land.
“The ‘annexation’ of [these] territories exist only in Russian virtual TV reality,” said Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, The Guardianreports. “What will be more painful for the apologists of the ‘Russian world’ will be [their] meeting with reality and the Ukrainian armed forces.”