Ukraine made its boldest claim yet of success on the battlefield in its week-old counter-offensive against Russian forces in the south, while European markets reopened yesterday in free-fall after Russia kept its main gas pipeline to Germany shut.
After days of declining to give details about their new offensive, Ukrainian officials posted an image online of three soldiers raising a flag over a town 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 announced that Ukrainian forces had captured two towns in the south and one in the east.
In a rare acknowledgment from the Russian side that the Ukrainian counter-offensive was spoiling Moscow’s plans for territory it has seized, TASS news agency quoted a Moscow-installed official in Kherson as saying plans for a referendum to annex the region to Russia had been put on hold due to the security situation.
Mark Hertling, a retired former commander of US ground forces in Europe, said Kyiv’s aim appeared to be to trap thousands of Russian troops on the east bank of the vast Dnipro River, destroying bridges the Russians now use for supplies and would need to escape.
Russia had left “a force in Kherson, with a river at their back & limited supply lines”, and Ukraine was hitting them with “precision weapons, confusing a RU force that already has very low morale and poor leadership,” Hertling tweeted.
Ukraine’s embattled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant’s last working reactor has been switched off from the grid after the facility was disconnected from its last remaining power line due to shelling, reports AFP.
“The world is once again on the brink of a nuclear disaster. The de-occupation of the ZNPP and the creation of a demilitarised zone around it is the only way to ensure nuclear safety,” Ukraine’s energy minister German Galuschenko said following the news yesterday.
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.
Moscow blames Western sanctions it says have interfered with repairs of equipment for forcing it to halt 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 said yesterday.