Ukraine is pushing south into the strategic Kherson region

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KHARKIV, Ukraine – Ukrainian forces broke through Russian lines and made fresh advances in the southern Kherson region, even as they continued develop their fast offense in the eastern part of the country.

Pushing south, the new Ukrainian advance secured a corner of the only Russian foothold on the west bank of the Dnipro River, which cuts through the country. Ukraine has in recent months destroyed all bridges to the enclave, which includes the regional capital, Kherson, making it increasingly difficult for the large Russian military contingent there to be supplied with fuel, ammunition and food.

Ukrainian forces raised their country’s flag in the town of Lyman after pushing out Russian troops. The victory in Donetsk and new advances in Kherson came days after Russia announced the annexation of four regions of Ukraine. Photo: Manu Brabo for WSJ

In a video address, President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian troops had recaptured the villages of Arkhangelske and Myrolyubivka in the Kherson region, while video footage shared by Ukrainian soldiers showed the Ukrainian flag raised in a handful of other villages further south. Ukraine’s military does not usually report the seizure of villages until they are fully secured, and warned on Monday against the release of premature information that could undermine Ukrainian operations.

The Russian-appointed deputy governor of Kherson, Kirill Stremousov, also said that Ukrainian forces had broken through in the region and were moving south towards the city of Dudchany. “We reject all the attacks and do not panic,” he said.

The speed of the Ukrainian offensives on several fronts has taken Russia by surprise, leading to recriminations in Moscow and forcing President

Vladimir Putin

to advertise mobilization of hundreds of thousands of reservists. Ukraine is trying to advance as far as it can before these newly mobilized troops are trained and deployed to support crumbling Russian front lines.

Burning Russian flags in front of a government building in Lyman, Ukraine.


Photo:

Manu Brabo for The Wall Street Journal

A Ukrainian civilian whose house was damaged by fighting in Lyman.


Photo:

Manu Brabo for The Wall Street Journal

Kherson is one of the four Ukrainian regions that Mr. Putin annexes to Russia after fake referendums at the end of last month. None of the four are under full Russian control. Ukrainian forces have made major advances in recent days in another Russian-claimed region, Donetsk, and reiterated strategic city of Lyman.

Russia in February recognized the proxy states it created in parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions in 2014 within its claimed borders, which include all of those regions. Russia currently controls just over half of Donetsk and does not control the capital of another region it is annexing, Zaporizhzhia.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that Donetsk and Luhansk will be annexed to Russia “within the 2014 borders,” while the exact borders under which Zaporizhzhia and Kherson will be incorporated into Russia will be defined “in consultation with the residents of these regions.” He did not specify how and when these consultations would be conducted.

Combined with the continued offensive in the eastern part of the Kharkiv region, the recapture of Lyman brings Ukrainian troops towards Luhansk, the only one of the four regions that until recently was fully controlled by Moscow. That success will allow Kiev to try to recapture the capital region of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, which Russia captured in late June.

Many buildings have been destroyed in Kharkiv in northeastern Ukraine.


Photo:

Serhii Korovayny for The Wall Street Journal

The Saltivka neighborhood of Kharkiv has been heavily damaged by seven months of war.


Photo:

Serhii Korovayny for The Wall Street Journal

Andrey Marochko, security spokesman for the Russian-installed government in Luhansk, said on social media on Monday that Ukrainian forces had already managed to cross into the region and establish positions in the direction of Lysychansk.

Kherson is of special importance to Ukraine. It is the only regional capital that Russia has captured since the February invasion, and the Russian military presence on the western bank of the Dnipro River poses a military threat to the Ukrainian cities of Mykolaiv and Odessa, as well as the rest of the country’s Black Sea coast.

The new Ukrainian advance along the Dnipro brings Ukrainian forces closer to the town of Nova Kakhovka, which is of strategic importance to Russia because it sits as the mouth of the canal that supplies the Russian-occupied Crimean peninsula with fresh water. The channel was shut down after Russia seized Crimea in 2014and reopened only after Russia captured most of the Kherson region this year.

As Russian forces continued to retreat, Moscow launched new missile and rocket attacks on Ukrainian cities behind. In the city of Zaporizhzhia, Russian S-300 missiles destroyed a building housing a rehabilitation center for children with special needs, according to the regional government. Another Russian missile attack hit the area around the city of Dnipro, the regional government there said.

A Ukrainian soldier looks for Russian troops in Lyman.


Photo:

Manu Brabo for The Wall Street Journal

Write to Yaroslav Trofimov at yaroslav.trofimov@wsj.com

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