IZIUM (Reuters): Ukraine said its troops have marched farther east into territory recently abandoned by Russia, paving the way for a potential assault on Moscow’s occupation forces in the Donbas region as Kyiv seeks more Western arms.
“The occupiers are clearly in a panic,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised address late on Monday, adding that he was now focused on “speed” in liberated areas.
“The speed at which our troops are moving. The speed in restoring normal life,” Zelensky said.
The Ukrainian leader also hinted he would use a video address to the United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday to call on countries to accelerate weapons and aid deliveries.
“We are doing everything to ensure Ukraine’s needs are met at all levels — defense, financial, economic, diplomatic,” Zelensky said.
Ukraine’s armed forces had regained complete control of the village of Bilohorivka, and were preparing to retake all of Luhansk province from Russian occupiers, provincial Governor Serhiy Gaidai said. The village is only 10km west of Lysychansk city, which fell to the Russians after weeks of grinding battles in July.
“There will be fighting for every centimeter,” Gaidai wrote on Telegram. “The enemy is preparing their defense. So we will not simply march in.”
Luhansk and the neighboring province of Donetsk comprise the industrialized eastern region of Donbas, which Moscow says it intends to seize as a primary aim of what it calls the “special military operation” in Ukraine.
Ukrainian troops have begun to push into Luhansk since driving Russian forces out of northeastern Kharkiv province in a lightning counter-offensive this month.
In a sign of nervousness from a Moscow-backed administration in Donbas about the success of Ukraine’s recent offensive, its leader called for urgent referendums on the region becoming part of Russia.
Denis Pushilin, head of the Moscow-based separatist administration in Donetsk, called on his fellow separatist leader in Luhansk to combine efforts toward preparing a referendum on joining Russia.
The Ukraine general staff said fighting in the past 24 hours had been limited to the Donetsk region, and Russian attacks had been repelled near Mayorsk, Vesele, Kurdyumivka and Novomykhailivka settlements.
In the south, where another Ukrainian counter-offensive has been making slower progress, Ukraine’s armed forces said they had sunk a barge carrying Russian troops and equipment across a river near Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson region.
“Attempts to build a crossing failed to withstand fire from Ukrainian forces and were halted. The barge … became an addition to the occupiers’ submarine force,” the military said in a statement on Facebook.
Reuters could not independently verify either side’s battlefield reports.
Increased Ukrainian long-range strike capability had likely forced Russia’s Black Sea fleet to relocate some of its submarines from the port of Sevastopol in Crimea to Novorossiysk in Krasnodor Krai in southern Russia, the British military said on Tuesday.
Ukraine is still assessing what took place in areas that were under Russian control for months before a rout of Russian troops dramatically changed the dynamic of the war earlier this month.