Vladimir Putin has defiantly claimed that Russia will stabilise the situation in four Ukrainian regions it has claimed as its own territory, despite recent military losses.
Russian forces have suffered significant losses in two of the four regions since Friday, when Putin signed treaties to incorporate them into Russia after what it called referendums – exercises that Ukraine and the West denounced as illegal.
But the Russian president insisted on Wednesday that Moscow’s rule over the territories would prevail.
“We proceed from the fact that the situation will be stabilised, we will be able to calmly develop these territories,” Putin said in televised remarks.
Earlier his spokesman said the four regions faced an intensive process of adaptation, and that it would be difficult.
Earlier, President Volodymr Zelensky said Ukraine’s army was carrying out a “fast and powerful” advance in Ukraine to push back the Russian forces in country’s south, recapturing “dozens of settlements” absorbed by Moscow’s illegal annexation, President Volodymr Zelensky has claimed.
In his late night address on Tuesday, Ukraine’s leader applauded his soldiers for taking back swathes of land in Kherson, Kharkiv, Luhansk and Donetsk, the latter two of which president Vladimir Putin signed a law to formally annex on Wednesday morning, in defiance of international law.
But he said it had come at a high cost.
Sharing images from Lyman, a city in the Donetsk region, Mr Zelensky said in a tweet: “Our Lyman after the occupier… All basics of life have been destroyed here.
“They are doing so everywhere in the territories they seize. This can be stopped in 1 way only: liberate Ukraine, life, humanity, law and truth as soon as possible.”
The settlements of Lyubymivka, Khreshchenivka, Zolota Balka, Bilyaivka, Ukrainka, Velyka and Mala Oleksandrivka, and Davydiv Brid were liberated from the occupier and stabilised. And this is far from a complete list,” he said.
“Our warriors do not stop. And it’s only a matter of time before we oust the occupier from all our land.”
The claims made by the president were backed up by the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD), which in its daily update said Ukraine has made substantial progress on the northeastern and southern fronts in the besieged country.
“Ukraine continues to make progress in offensive operations along both the north-eastern and southern fronts. In the north-east, in Kharkiv Oblast, Ukraine has now consolidated a substantial area of territory east of the Oskil river,” the MoD said in its daily update.
It added that Ukrainian formations have advanced up to 20km beyond the river into Russia’s defensive zone towards the supply node of the town of Svatove.
“It is highly likely that Ukraine can now strike the key Svatove-Kremina road with most of its artillery systems, further straining Russia’s ability to resupply its units in the east,” the ministry said.
Politically, the MoD said, Russian leaders “will highly likely be concerned that leading Ukrainian units are now approaching the borders of Luhansk oblast, which Russia claimed to have formally annexed last Friday.”
On Wednesday morning, Ukrainian military officials said at least 31 Russian soldiers have been killed in the last 24 hours, as Moscow’s control continues to shrink.
Earlier this week, Russia’s parliament ratified treaties to also make the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions part of the country. The formalities followed Kremlin-orchestrated “referendums” in the four regions, broadly rejected as a sham by Ukraine and the West.
Reports of Ukraine’s offensive in Kherson though was challenged by Russia, after one Moscow-installed official today announced that Russian forces in the region were regrouping for a counterattack.
State news agency RIA reported quoted Kirill Stremousov as saying that Russian forces were “conducting a regrouping in order to gather their strength and deliver a retaliatory blow”.
Elsewhere, Russia has attacked the city of Bila Tserkva in the heart of Ukraine with Kamikaze drones, according to Kyiv governor Oleksiy Kuleba.
The drone attack struck an infrastructure object which caught fire and one person has been injured after the attack, the governor said, reported The Kyiv Independent.
The rescue operation and fire extinguishing are ongoing and residents have been asked to remain in shelters, the governor said.