Ukrainian forces broke through Russian lines in the southern province of Kherson, pushing occupation forces back as many as 20 miles Monday — just hours after Ukraine claimed victory in the Donbas city of Lyman.
The advances make good on Kyiv’s promises to ignore Moscow’s claims to have annexed occupied territory and claim it as part of territorial Russia.
Ukrainian forces captured several villages along the western bank of the Dniper river in the northern part of the province.
In a rare Russian admission of loss, Vladimir Saldo, the Kremlin-installed occupation authority in the region, told Russian state TV the situation was “tense.”
“There were indeed breakthroughs,” Saldo said, singling out the village of Dudchany — a rural spot on the Dniper some 20 miles from the front line — as the center of the Ukrainian advance.
The central government in Kyiv had yet to confirm the advance on Monday, but regional Ukrainian authorities in Kherson reported a number of victories along the Dniper river north of Dudchany.
It was unclear from early reports whether Ukrainian forces had managed to take the Dudchany itself, or whether they were still on the outskirts of the hamlet.
If confirmed, the reports mark the most rapid advance of Ukrainian forces along the southern front since the start of the war.
Kherson city — some 70 miles downriver from Dudchany — and the surrounding region were among the first to fall to the Russian invasion in February, giving Russian troops ample time to dig in.
In contrast to Ukraine’s rapid and unexpected charge through occupied territory in the northeast Kharkiv province last month, Kyiv’s southern offensive was much awaited and hadn’t earned the Ukrainian military much territory prior to Monday’s victories.
Much like its northern operations, Ukraine’s southern offensive has sought to control Russian supply lines. Weeks of so-called “shaping operations” in the summer used American-made HIMARS and other long-range weapons to take out bridges crossing the Dniper and hinder Russian resupply efforts.
Monday’s advance gives Ukraine more control over the river itself — and Russian attempts to get supplies across it.
The advance is also among the first to come after Russia’s sham referendums and subsequent claim to have annexed Kherson province — along with Luhansk, Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia provinces.
More coverage on the Ukraine war
The Kremlin has previously said that any attack on the four annexed provinces would be treated like an attack on Russia, before calling up an additional 300,000 troops in a wildly unpopular mobilization.
But a senior US military official told reporters on Monday that Western intelligence has seen “relatively small numbers” of the mobilized troops being sent to Ukraine so far.
“We’re seeing replacement forces coming in to assist … as [Russia has] fought back to try to shore up some of the defensive lines, but nothing large-scale at this stage of the game,” the official said.
“Clearly there’s a reason you’re mobilizing 300,000 troops with the intent of employing those forces at some point in time,” the official added. “We could expect to see them move, but we have not seen it at a large scale at this stage.”
The reports of Ukrainian victories along the Dniper came just hours after Kyiv said it’d retaken the strategic city of Lyman — a key city on the war’s northern front.
The city — a logistics hub in the northern portion of Donetsk province — has been the site of fierce fighting for weeks as Russian forces try to rally from Kyiv’s northern advance.
Lyman had served as the main Russian logistics hub in the region, and its loss is expected to further incapacitate Moscow’s military in the eastern Donbas — the industrial heartland made up of Donetsk and Luhansk provices.
With additional reporting by Caitlin Doornbos and wires