The Russian front line collapsed in southern Ukraine and dozens of towns were liberated within hours, according to sources on both sides of the conflict.
Kyiv said its troops were “advancing confidently towards the sea” as videos showed the town of Davydiv Brid under their control as well as a cluster of small settlements in the surrounding countryside.
Meanwhile, pro-Russian military bloggers said their forces had retreated about 10 miles down the Dnipro River as the entire northern end of their territory west of the river fell to the Ukrainians.
It comes just days after Putin declared the Kherson region – along with three others – to be part of Russia, vowing it would belong to Moscow “forever”.
Ukrainian troops are pictured fighting in Kherson in the south with a heavy machine gun mounted on top of a buggy which is being used to attack a Russian position
A Ukrainian soldier fires an anti-tank launcher from the top of an armored car as they break through Russian lines north of Kherson
The northern end of the Russian front line in Kherson reportedly collapsed, with dozens of villages taken over by the Ukrainians
Illia Ponomarenko, a respected Kyiv Independent journalist, tweeted: “My God, the Russian front is apparently collapsing in the south.”
“I just can’t keep up with the reports of newly liberated towns coming in every two hours.”
Ukraine has been attacking Kherson since early August after launching a much-vaunted counter-offensive to retake the city – the only regional capital to fall to Putin’s troops during the seven-month war.
So far, the offensive had progressed only slowly, gaining ground in a few areas while being pushed back in others.
However, it now appears that Russian troops – who are cut off from their main supply lines after Ukraine blew up the bridges over the Dnipro River with HIMARS – can no longer hold the line.
And news of Russian defeats in the region is significant, as Putin has based the majority of his best soldiers there – up to 30,000 of them, by some accounts.
If Moscow’s armies pull out of Kherson, questions will arise as to whether they can continue to hold any of the territories they took from Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s offensive in the north – east of the city of Kharkiv – continues, with troops capturing two small settlements on the east bank of the Oskil River.
The territory is located just over seven miles from the border of Luhansk Oblast, another of the regions Putin annexed last week.
Ukrainian forces appear to be clearing unoccupied towns in the region in preparation for an attack on the town of Svatove in Luhansk.
Ukrainian soldiers are seen liberating the town of Davydiv Brid (left) and the nearby town of Starosillya (right), including one carrying a British flag but speaking in Ukrainian
Ukrainian soldiers are greeted by tearful locals in the Kherson town of Novopetrivka as they retake territory from the Russians
This then opens the door to a push towards Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, two major cities that Russia has spent weeks capturing and which underpin its claim to control the entire region.
Over the weekend, Russian troops withdrew from Lyman, a strategic eastern town that the Russians had used as a logistics and transportation hub, to avoid being surrounded by Ukrainian forces.
The city’s liberation gave Ukraine a key vantage point to drive its offensive deeper into Russian-held territories.
Two days later, an Associated Press team reporting from the city saw at least 18 bodies of Russian soldiers still on the ground.
The Ukrainian army appears to have recovered the bodies of their comrades after fierce battles for control of Lyman, but did not immediately remove those of the Russians.
“We are fighting for our land, for our children, for our people to live better, but all of this comes at a very high price,” said a Ukrainian soldier who calls himself “Rud”.
Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Yevhen Perebyinis has called for the deployment of more weapons to Ukraine after Russia announced a partial mobilization last month.
In a video address at a conference in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Russia’s war on Ukraine on Tuesday, Perebyinis said the additional weapons would not lead to an escalation, but rather help end the war earlier.
“We need additional long-range artillery and ammunition, combat aircraft and armed vehicles to continue liberating the occupied territory,” the deputy minister said.
Vladimir Putin said Kherson – along with Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia – would become part of Russia last week, promising to keep them ‘forever’
Russia’s invasion has largely stalled and has now reversed as Ukraine retakes swaths of territory to the north and south
“We need anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems to protect our civilians and critical infrastructure against terrorist attacks against Russian forces.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that the army had recruited more than 200,000 reservists as part of a partial mobilization launched two weeks ago.
He said recruits undergo training at 80 firing ranges before being deployed to front lines in Ukraine.
Putin’s mobilization order stated that up to 300,000 reservists were to be called up, but left the door open for a larger call-up.
It sparked protests in many parts of Russia and caused tens of thousands of men to flee Russia to challenge the Kremlin.
Ukrainian successes in the east and south came even as Russia moved to absorb four Ukrainian regions amidst fighting.
Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, voted on Tuesday to ratify treaties to make eastern Donetsk and Luhansk and the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia part of Russia. The lower house did so on Monday.
Putin is expected to quickly approve the annexation treaties.
Russian moves to incorporate Ukrainian regions were made so hastily that even the exact boundaries of the absorbed territories were unclear.