Ukraine says its forces have liberated three towns from the occupiers and destroyed the Russian security agency’s local hub — as Kyiv touted its military’s success in its week-old counteroffensive in the south.
Following days of silence about their new offensive, Ukrainian officials posted an image online of three soldiers raising a flag over a settlement in Kherson province — a southern region occupied by Russia since the war’s early days.
The image of the flag being fixed to a pole on a rooftop, purportedly in Vysokopyllya in the north of Kherson, was released as President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukrainian forces had captured two towns in the south and one in the east.
On Monday, Ukraine’s defense intelligence division claimed that Kyiv’s forces struck a Russian base used by the Kremlin’s Federal Security Service in Kamianka-Dniprovska in the Zaporizhzhia region.
After months of enduring punishing Russian artillery assaults in the east, Ukraine has begun its counter-attack, its biggest since it repelled Russian forces from the outskirts of Kyiv in March.
Ukraine’s presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak advised residents of Russian-annexed Crimea to prepare bomb shelters and stock up on supplies “during de-occupation measures.”
“Everything will be Ukraine,” he wrote on Twitter.
Ukraine had kept most details of its new campaign under wraps, banning journalists from the front line and offering little public commentary in order to preserve the tactical surprise.
The Ukrainian military’s general staff reported Monday that it repelled multiple Russian offensives and knocked the enemy from its positions near Kramatorsk in the east.
Russia has said it has pushed back assaults in Kherson, but in a rare acknowledgment of the Ukrainian counter-offensive, TASS news agency quoted a Moscow-installed official in the region as saying its plans for a referendum on joining Russia had been put on hold due to the security situation.
Zelensky’s announcement that a town had been captured in the east suggested Ukraine was taking advantage of pressure in the south to try to reverse some of the gains Russia made elsewhere in recent months.
In his evening address on Sunday, Zelensky tempered his announcements of success with a warning to European countries that they could face a cold winter as Russia’s continued gas shutdown roiled markets.
Moscow blames disruption to equipment repairs and maintenance caused by Western sanctions for its halt to the flow of gas through Nord Stream 1, its main pipeline to Germany. Russia was due to reopen the pipeline on Saturday but has said it will stay shut indefinitely.
“Problems with gas supply arose because of the sanctions imposed on our country by Western states, including Germany and Britain,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov openly admitted on Monday.
European countries and the US said Russia is using energy as a weapon but that they are collaborating to ensure supplies.
“As a result of these efforts, European gas storage will be full by the critical winter heating season,” a White House official said. “We have more work to do.”
Led by Germany, European countries have rolled out billions of euros in aid for consumers and businesses, which last week helped drive European gas prices back down sharply from record highs.
But the weekend news about Nord Stream’s extended shutdown sent prices soaring once again on Monday, bringing fears of a bleak winter for consumers and businesses across the continent.
Peskov also said Moscow planned to retaliate for the latest Western move: a proposed cap on the price of Russian oil exports from December designed to reduce Moscow’s main source of income.
Ukraine’s Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal urged the European Union on Monday to supply Kyiv with more weapons and equipment while offering to help out with gas deliveries to reduce the bloc’s dependence on Russia.
With Post wires