Ukrainian forces are advancing in the south and may have marked a major breakthrough of the Russian lines as they also take more territory to the east.
Troops from Kyiv are attacking the western bank of the Dnipro river and have taken the town of Zolota Balka, it was reported on Monday, as pro-Kremlin sources claimed the troops had retreated to Dudchany, around 15 miles further south.
It comes after the key town of Lyman in Donetsk was captured by Ukrainian forces over the weekend, with Kyiv commanders saying troops are now attacking the town of Kreminna in neighboring Luhansk.
This means Putin’s troops are now losing ground in three of the four Ukrainian regions he annexed last week – saying any attack on them would be considered an attack on Russia and could trigger a nuclear response.
Ukrainian troops are filmed ambushing Russian armored vehicles using anti-tank launchers in Donetsk, leaving at least one of them destroyed
The wreckage of a Russian Tigr armored vehicle lies abandoned on a forest road (bottom centre) in Donetsk as other fleets (top) follow a Ukrainian ambush
Ukraine is also advancing in Kherson in the south, where troops are believed to have broken through Russian lines on the Dnipro River (top)
Anton Gerashchenko, a senior adviser to the Ukrainian government, posted footage online Sunday believed to be from the town of Zolota Balka in southern Kherson region, showing a soldier waving a flag posing with civilians.
The Institute for the Study of War, a respected American think tank, also reported overnight that Ukraine had captured the city while President Zelensky also hailed Ukrainian advances in the region.
However, pro-Russian military bloggers were much more pessimistic – claiming that Ukraine had made a major breakthrough on the front lines.
According to several accounts, Putin’s troops were forced to retreat to the town of Dudchany, which meant that the Ukrainians had advanced about 20 miles.
If confirmed, it would be one of the biggest breakthroughs in Kherson since Ukraine began their offensive in early August, and it would be a blow for Putin’s men.
Meanwhile, hundreds of kilometers to the northeast, Ukraine said it captured the town of Torske, about 11 kilometers east of the town of Lyman, which it liberated on Saturday.
Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesman for Ukraine’s Eastern Command, said troops were now attacking Russian units in Kreminna – located in the nearby town of Luhansk.
Taking the city would open the door to an assault on the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, which Russia spent weeks and huge amounts of manpower capturing over the summer.
Meanwhile, other attacks were reported further north, heading east from the town of Borova towards Svatove, also located in Luhansk.
Kherson, Lugansk and Donetsk – as well as Zaporizhzhia – were annexed by Putin during a speech in the Kremlin last week.
Ukraine liberated the town of Lyman, Donetsk, over the weekend and has since advanced to the nearby town of Torske
Kyiv men have been advancing rapidly into the Donbass region from Kharkiv since launching a major counterattack there last month (pictured, a Russian flag is pulled down in Donetsk)
A Ukrainian flag flies in a heavily damaged residential area in the village of Dolyna in Donetsk after it was recaptured by troops from Kyiv
The despot said the regions would be part of Russia “forever”, while his spokesman said any attack on them would be considered an attack on the mainland.
Kyiv has rejected annexation, saying it is based on sham referendums that carry no international weight and has vowed to continue liberating occupied territories.
Ukraine’s Western supporters also vowed never to respect the land grab – Europe’s biggest since World War II – and said there would be no slackening of arms supplies , despite Putin’s threats to go nuclear.
It comes amid reports that the despot is increasingly making decisions privately, with members of Russia’s elite complaining that he is acting recklessly.
Fifteen civil servants, politicians and business executives told the Telegraph that Putin refused to talk to his top officials.
“There is a total lack of coordination. It’s a mess. Putin tells everyone different things,” a source close to the government said.
Speaking of the Ukrainian rout of Russian troops that prompted Putin to make nuclear threats and conscript civilians into the army, the source added: “What were we doing in Kharkiv? Nobody has a clue.
Another government source painted a grim picture of the coming war.
‘The 300,000 [conscripts] are just a diversion. Now it’s partial, but then there will be massive ‘conscription’, and after that tactical nukes,” they said.
Putin is now more than seven months into what he designed as a multi-day “special military operation” in Ukraine to regain control of the country.
Having initially failed to take Kyiv in a lightning offensive early in the war, its offensive in eastern Donbass also stalled.
Ukraine then launched two counterattacks in Kherson and Kharkiv in August, the first of which progressed slowly but steadily and the second of which achieved a major breakthrough that put Russia on their backs.
Putin now appears to have largely given up on his plans to advance and is instead looking to hang on and try to hold on to the territory he has already taken in hopes of making the war a success for the Russian people.
Vladimir Putin annexed four regions of Ukraine to Russia, but is now losing ground in three of them, fearing he could escalate into using a nuclear weapon
A burnt-out Russian tank is seen atop a hill in the Kharkiv region, which was retaken from Russia in a counterattack last month
He called up 300,000 military reserves to shore up his shaky frontlines and declared occupied parts of Ukraine to be part of Russia.
He also falsely accused NATO of plotting nuclear strikes against Russia and warned of retaliation with similar weapons.
Meanwhile, mysterious explosions ripped through Nord Stream 1 and 2 gas lines under the Baltic Sea last week in what European leaders have called sabotage.
Although no one other than Ukraine blamed Moscow out loud, private security officials said there was no doubt the Kremlin was behind it all.
The aim, experts say, was to send a warning to the West that its critical underwater infrastructure – including pipes and cables – is vulnerable to attack.
Putin seems to be betting that acts of sabotage coupled with overt threats can shatter Western unity around Ukraine and stem the flow of money and weapons currently heading to Kyiv.
This would likely force the war into a stalemate from which Putin hopes to secure a ceasefire agreement, allowing him to rebuild his armed forces and attack again – as he did after annexing Crimea to Ukraine in 2014.