A Ukrainian counteroffensive that has already reclaimed thousands of miles is breaking through Russian lines in the southern Kherson region recently annexed by Moscow, Kremlin-installed officials said Monday.
Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-picked head of the Kherson province, said on state television that multiple settlements about 70 miles northeast of the city of Kherson on the banks of the Dnieper River have been overrun.
“It’s tense, let’s put it that way,” Saldo said in a translation by Reuters.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in his daily briefing that “with superior tank units … the enemy managed to penetrate into the depths of our defense.” But Konashenkov said Russian troops had fallen back to a defensive position and “continue to inflict massive fire damage” on Kyiv’s forces.
The deputy head of the regional administration, Kirill Stremousov, said Ukraine forces “have broken through a little deeper” but wrote on Telegram that “everything is under control.”
Ukraine also reported making inroads in the Luhansk province days after reclaiming the strategic eastern city of Lyman in the Donetsk province near the border with Luhansk.
►Ihor Murashov, director general of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in the Ukrainian province of Zaporizhzhia, was released from Russian custody after being detained leaving the facility Friday, according to Rafael Grossi, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
►Russian shelling of eight Ukrainian regions over the past 24 hours killed two civilians and wounded 14 others, Ukraine’s presidential office said Monday.
►The Joint Expeditionary Force group of northern European nations will meet Monday to discuss the safety of undersea pipelines and cables after blasts ruptured two natural gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said.
Petraeus: US and NATO allies would ‘take out’ Russian forces if they used nukes
There’s an important fact to keep in mind amid the concern Russian President Vladimir Putin has raised with his nuclear threats: The US and its allies would crush the Russian forces, former CIA Director David Petraeus says.
The retired four star general said if Putin used nuclear weapons in Ukraine, the US would lead a collective response with other NATO nations “that would take out every Russian conventional force that we can see and identify on the battlefield in Ukraine and also in Crimea and every ship in the Black Sea.”
Petraeus made the comments during a Sunday interview with ABC’s “This Week” in which he said Putin is not only losing the war, but “the battlefield reality he faces is, I think, irreversible.” He added: “There’s nothing he can do at this point. … and the losses have been staggering.”
Petraeus noted that he hasn’t spoken with US national security adviser Jake Sullivan, who last week revealed the Biden administration has made it clear to the Russians that they would face “catastrophic consequences” if they used nuclear weapons against Ukraine.
Even though Ukraine is not a member of NATO, Petraeus said a Russian nuclear attack would be so “horrific” that the US and its allies would have no choice but to respond militarily.
“But it doesn’t expand, it doesn’t — it’s not nuclear for nuclear. You don’t want to, again, get into a nuclear escalation here,” he said. “But you have to show that this cannot be accepted in any way.”
Russian parliament house approves annexations
The lower house of the Russian parliament on Monday approved the treaties for four regions of Ukraine to join Russia. The unanimous vote by the State Duma came days after President Vladimir Putin and Russian-installed leaders of the four regions signed the treaties. The upper house is expected to follow suit Tuesday. Ukraine, the US and its western allies have dismissed the annexations as having no legal validity.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the entire Donetsk and Luhansk regions that make up the Donbas would join Russia. He said the borders of the two other regions – Zaporizhzhia and Kherson – have not been determined.
Kremlin shrugs off criticism of leadership
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said criticism of Russia’s military leadership by Chechnya’s regional leader was driven by emotions. Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed leader of Chechnya, scathingly criticized the Russian military command over the weekend, saying the Russian retreat from the city of Lyman in eastern Ukraine was a result of incompetence and nepotism. Kadyrov wrote on Telegram that Russian military leader Colonel-General Alexander Lapin should be fired.
“If I had my way I would have demoted Lapin to private, would have deprived him of his awards and would have sent him to the front line to wash off his shame with the rifle in his hands,” Kadyrov wrote.
Kadyrov also called for the use of low-yield nuclear weapons in Ukraine to reverse the momentum of the war, which has been decidedly in Ukraine’s favor in recent weeks.
Contributing: The Associated Press