- Ukraine says its troops are advancing to the east bank of the Oskil River
- Russia steps up attacks on Ukrainian civilian targets – Britain
- Biden urges Putin not to use tactical nuclear and chemical weapons
KIEV, September 19 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed there would be no let-up in the fight to regain territory lost to Russia, as Kyiv said its troops had advanced to the east bank of the Oskil River and were threatening the Russian occupying forces in Ukraine Donbass.
The crossing of the Oskil is another important milestone in Ukraine’s counter-offensive in northeastern Kharkiv region, as it flows south to the Siversky Donets river, which flows directly through Luhansk, one of two provinces in the Donbass region.
Donbass is the traditional industrial heartland of Ukraine, made up of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
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Ukrainian troops “advanced across the Oskil. As of yesterday, Ukraine controls the east bank,” Ukrainian Armed Forces wrote on Telegram late Sunday.
Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Luhansk region, wrote on Telegram: “Luhansk region is right next door. De-occupation is not far away.”
Zelenskyy promised to keep the pressure on Moscow after Ukraine’s quick gains in Kharkiv this month.
“Perhaps it seems to some of you that after a string of victories, we are now in a kind of lull,” he said in his regular Sunday night address. “But there will be no pause. There are preparations for the next series… Because Ukraine must be free. All of that.”
US President Joe Biden also said victory for Ukraine means removing Russian forces from across the country and pledged US support for as long as needed.
“Winning the war in Ukraine means getting Russia out of Ukraine completely and recognizing sovereignty. They’re defeating Russia,” he said in an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes on Sunday.
“Russia is proving to be not as competent and capable as many people thought they would be.”
Russian artillery hit towns and villages along front lines in the east and south on Sunday, including civilian infrastructure in the town of Zaporizhia, Ukrainian officials said.
Britain said Russian forces had escalated attacks on civilian infrastructure following battlefield setbacks and were likely to expand their targets further.
“Faced with setbacks at the front lines, Russia has likely expanded targets to directly undermine the morale of the Ukrainian people and government,” the UK MoD said.
Ukraine’s Southern Command said Monday strikes had also been launched at a radar station near Kherson and on a pontoon crossing near Nova Kakhovka, east of Kherson, where a Ukrainian counter-offensive aimed at destroying bridges across the Dnipro and Dnipro rivers Inhulets focused.
Separately, Ukraine’s General Defense staff said its forces repelled Russian attacks in the areas of Mykolaivka Druga, Vesela Dolyna and Bakhmut settlements in the Donetsk region. Kyiv also hit “enemy targets” in several attacks, including air defense and ammunition depots, he added.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield reports.
PUTIN, BIDEN WARNINGS
On Friday, Russian President Vladimir Putin brushed aside Ukraine’s rapid counteroffensive, saying Moscow will respond more forcefully if its troops continue to be pressured. Continue reading
Such repeated threats have raised concerns that Putin may eventually turn to small nuclear weapons or chemical warfare.
Asked what he would say to Putin if he considered using such weapons, US President Joe Biden replied on CBS’ 60 Minutes interview: “No. Do not do. Do not do. It would change the face of war differently than anything since World War II.” Read more
Some military analysts have said Russia could also stage a nuclear incident at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, which is held by Russia but operated by Ukrainian personnel. Continue reading
US Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for vigilance Sunday after visiting a base in Poland supporting Ukraine’s war effort.
“The war is not going so well for Russia right now, so we all need to maintain a high state of preparedness and alert,” he said after his trip to the base, which reporters traveling with him were not asked to identify. Continue reading
Faced with mounting battlefield casualties, the Russian army is recruiting temporary soldiers for the so-called “military special operation” in Ukraine, offering nearly $3,000 a month as an incentive.
On Saturday, Zelenskiy said authorities had found a mass grave in Izium containing the bodies of 17 soldiers, some of whom showed signs of torture.
Residents of Izium have been searching for dead relatives at a forest grave where workers began exhuming bodies last week. Ukrainian officials said last week they found 440 bodies in forests near Izium. They said most of the dead were civilians and the causes of death had not been determined.
The Kremlin has not commented on the discovery of the graves, but Moscow has repeatedly denied in the past that it intentionally targeted civilians or committed any atrocities.
In Kozacha Lopan, a village about 45 km (30 miles) north of Kharkiv and near the Russian border, a Reuters reporter was taken to a run-down basement with rooms lined with iron bars that officials say served as a makeshift prison during the occupation had .
District mayor Vyacheslav Zadorenko said the rooms had been used as “torture chambers” for detaining civilians.
Reuters could not verify these accounts.
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Reporting by Reuters bureaus; writing by David Brunnstrom and Stephen Coates; Edited by Daniel Wallis, Shri Navaratnam and Lincoln Feast.
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