Ukraine said its forces have retaken more settlements in Kherson, one of four partially Russian-occupied regions that President Vladimir Putin formally incorporated into Russia in Europe’s biggest annexation since World War II.
With Russian forces retreating from front lines in the south and east, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a late Wednesday address that Novovoskresenske, Novohryhorivka and Petropavlivka to the northeast of Kherson city had been “liberated”.
At the United Nations, Russia is lobbying for a secret ballot instead of a public vote next week when the 193-member UN General Assembly considers whether to condemn its annexation of Donetsk and Luhansk in the east and Kherson and Zaporizhzhia in the south after staging referendums there.
Putin signed a law on Wednesday to incorporate the regions into Russia.
Ukraine says it will never accept an illegal seizure of its territory by force. Kyiv and the West said the referendums were rigged votes held at gunpoint.
The new law would incorporate about 18 per cent of Ukraine’s territory into Russia.
Putin says he wants to ensure Russia’s security and protect Russian-speakers in Ukraine. Kyiv accuses Moscow of a land grab.
Russia’s move to annex the regions raises the possibility of an escalation in the war, as Putin and other officials have said they could use nuclear weapons to protect Russian territory including the annexed provinces.
Ukraine has said it will not be cowed by any nuclear threats and Zelenskiy said in his address he and his senior military officials met to discuss recovering all lands occupied by Russia.
Switching from Ukrainian to Russian, Zelenskiy addressed pro-Moscow forces, telling them they had already lost.
“Ukrainians know what they are fighting for. And more and more citizens of Russia are realising that they must die simply because one person does not want to end the war,” he said in a reference to Putin.
Moscow’s map of Ukraine appears to show shrinking areas it controls.
A map of “new regions” published by state news agency RIA included the full territory of the Ukrainian provinces, but some parts were labelled as being under Ukrainian military control.
Ukraine’s military in the south said its forces had killed at least 58 Russian fighters, destroyed nine tanks, 17 armoured vehicles and four howitzers.
Overnight, seven Russian missiles hit the city of Zaporizhzhia, damaging or destroying several buildings and causing fires and injuries, regional governor Oleksandr Starukh said.
“Rescuers are already pulling people out from under the rubble,” he added. (Reuters/NAN)