Ukraine regains Russian-held villages in Kherson

Ukraine regains Russian-held villages in Kherson. Ukraine’s forces have liberated a key village in Kherson’s southern region, hastening yet another Russian military retreat. The defense ministry in Kyiv posted a video of the 35th marine brigade hoisting a Ukrainian flag above Davydiv Brid, amid reports of the recapture of several other nearby villages.

In the north-east of Ukraine, Russian forces have already been forced to retreat. They are also being pushed back in the south. Their latest setback came as President Vladimir Putin was set to sign decrees annexing four Ukrainian regions, all of which were at war. The annexation lacks international legal legitimacy, and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky has declared it null and void.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden spoke with Mr. Zelensky and assured him that the US would never recognize Russian annexation. They also discussed $625 million (£550 million) in US aid, which includes Himars rocket launchers. In the south, Russia still controls Kherson, the regional capital. However, its hold on the entire area north of the Dnieper River, known as Dnipro in Ukrainian, appears to be slipping.

Ukrainian forces have pushed south along the river’s west bank in the last 48 hours, and Russian units have been forced to withdraw from several settlements in the Kherson region’s north. Mr Zelensky claimed that Ukrainian forces had made “rapid, powerful movements” in southern Ukraine this week, liberating “dozens of settlements.”

“The Ukrainian flag is flying over the village of Davydiv Brid once more,” Ukraine’s defense ministry announced on social media. Residents captured footage of Ukrainian soldiers walking through the village.

Mr Zelensky stated in his Tuesday evening address that the villages of Lyubimivka, Khreshchenivka, Zolota Balka, Bilyaivka, Ukrainka, Velyka Oleksandrivka, and Mala Oleksandrivka had also been liberated, and that this was “far from the entire list.”

Ukraine’s deputy interior minister, Yevhen Enin, stated that 50 towns and villages had been recaptured and 3,500 citizens had been freed in Kherson, but did not specify the time frame. Later, the defence ministry stated that Russian forces were demoralized and were attempting to destroy bridges in order to slow the Ukrainian advance.

Kirill Stremousov, a Kremlin-installed official in Kherson, told residents, “There is no reason to panic.”

There was no immediate confirmation that villages north of Davydiv Brid had also been destroyed, and Russia’s military spokesman made no mention of losses there. However, on maps depicting Russian control, it was clear that the villages of Arkhanhelske and Velyka Oleksandrivka in the region’s north-east, as well as Dudchany on the Dnieper, were no longer included.

According to Russian military blogger Rybar, the army decided to withdraw because it was in danger of being encircled. “It’s unclear where the new point of contact will be,” he said.

“Many settlements were flattened – some settlements have almost no undestroyed buildings left,” Kherson exiled deputy Mayor Roman Holovnia said.

Residents of the city, he said, were waiting for Ukrainian forces, knowing they were on their way. Only 100,000 of the 320,000 people who lived there before the war remained, according to Mr Holovnia.

For weeks, Ukrainian forces have been targeting Russian supply lines in the Kherson area, destroying the few bridges that cross the river. However, their progress southward has been slow up to this point. Kherson was quickly captured by Russian forces as they poured into the region from the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed in 2014.

Ukraine had more dramatic success in the north-eastern city of Kharkiv and in Donetsk, seizing the strategically important Lyman on Saturday. The town is part of Donetsk, but it is regarded as the gateway to Luhansk, a region under Russian occupation. The BBC’s Orla Guerin, reporting from Lyman, said few residents were there now, while the dead of numerous Russian soldiers lay in their uniforms outside the town.

Kherson, Luhansk and Donetsk are among the Ukrainian territories being illegally annexed by Russia, but the triumphalism of Vladimir Putin’s statement last Friday is appearing increasingly premature. A Russian blogger released stories by two individuals he said as militants from Luhansk’s Russian proxy army who narrowly missed being besieged near Lyman last week.

“We left Lyman, but it was just us – no explosives, nothing. Everything was burned up. All our friends and comrades stayed there [dead],” stated one of the men, named Mikhei.

According to Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, Russia has mobilized more than 200,000 troops since President Putin issued the order last month. The official aim for the “partial mobilization” is 300,000 people, but the recruitment push has been overshadowed by stories of Russians attempting to avoid the conscription or being given subpar equipment when they sign up. Over the last two weeks, Kazakhstan alone has reported that over 200,000 Russians have crossed its borders.