Ukrainian forces are continuing to advance south and have reportedly made breakthroughs in the Kherson region and taken control of some settlements.
Kyiv has stayed silent on details of the assault in the south of the country, but Russian military bloggers have described a Ukrainian tank advance through dozens of kilometres of territory along the bank of the Dnipro river.
Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s interior ministry, posted what he said was video of a Ukrainian soldier waving a flag in Zolota Balka, downriver from the former front line.
Rob Lee, a senior fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute think tank, cited Russian bloggers as reporting their forces falling back as far as Dudchany, 40 km (25 miles) downriver from where they had opposed Ukrainian troops a day earlier.
“When this many Russian channels are sounding the alarm, it usually means they’re in trouble,” Mr Lee wrote on Twitter.
Meanwhile, Russia sacked the commander of its western military district, the news outlet RBC reported, the latest in a series of top officials to be fired after a series of defeats and humiliations in the war in Ukraine.
RBC said Colonel General Alexander Zhuravlyov would be replaced by Lieutenant General Roman Berdnikov. The western military district is one of five that make up Russia’s armed forces.
A Ukrainian advance along the Dnipro river could trap thousands of Russian troops on the far side, cut off from all supplies. The river is enormously wide, and Ukraine has already destroyed the major crossings.
This news comes as Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, announced that Ukrainian troops had reclaimed two settlements – Arkhanhelske and Myrolyubivka – as well as the strategic city of Lyman over the weekend in the Kherson district just days after Russia claimed the territory after a so-called referendum.
“This week, the largest part of the reports is the list of settlements liberated from the enemy as part of our defence operation. The story of the liberation of Lyman in the Donetsk region has now become the most popular in the media. But the successes of our soldiers are not limited to Lyman,” Mr Zelensky said in his late-night address on Sunday.
A Russian-installed official in the Kherson region, Kirill Stremousov, admitted in a video statement today that the Ukrainian forces “have broken through a little deeper”.
However, he insisted that “everything is under control” and that Russia’s “defence system is working” in the region.
As Ukrainian forces continued their push south on Monday, the lower house of Russia’s parliament approved laws on annexing four occupied Ukrainian territories into Russia.
No lawmakers in the state Duma voted against the resolutions, which sought to formally incorporate Ukraine’s Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions into Russia.
However, Russian forces have suffered setbacks in three of the four regions in the last few days. Its soldiers left Lyman in the Donetsk region on Saturday and the Ukrainian military is making headway in the Luhansk and Kherson regions.
The situation has become so muddled that the Kremlin’s spokesperson, Dmitry Peskov, admitted that Russia was still determining which areas of Ukraine it had annexed, as reported by The Guardian.
The ongoing assault comes after Russia’s recent loss of the eastern city of Lyman, which it had been using as a transport and logistics hub.
This is a new blow to the Kremlin as it seeks to escalate the war by illegally annexing four regions of Ukraine and heightening its threats to use nuclear force.