Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that Ukrainian forces are stepping up their advances against Russian forces after liberating more cities in a number of areas.
Zelenskyy gave no further details when he announced in his nightly video address that the “offensive movement of our army and all our defenders” continued on October 3.
“New population centers have been liberated in several regions. Fierce fighting continues in many areas of the front,” he said, without specifying which settlements were liberated.
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He added: “More and more occupiers are trying to flee, more and more casualties are being borne by the enemy army, and there is a growing realization that Russia made a mistake in going to war against Ukraine.”
A day earlier, Zelenskyi said his forces had taken complete control of the strategic eastern city of Lyman in the Donbass region.
Serhiy Cherevatiy, spokesman for the Eastern Group of Armed Forces of Ukraine, said Ukrainian troops liberated the settlement of Torske near Lyman on October 2.
There were also reports on October 3 that Ukrainian forces were retaking towns along the west bank of the Dnipro River in southern Ukraine.
The extent of Ukraine’s advance was unconfirmed, but Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed leader in the occupied parts of Kherson, told Russian state television there had been breakthroughs.
“There is a settlement called Dudchaniy, right on the Dnipro River, and right there, in this region, there was a breakthrough. There are settlements occupied by Ukrainian forces,” he said.
Russian military bloggers on October 3 described a Ukrainian tank advance through tens of kilometers of territory along the river bank.
In a rare comment on the situation by a Ukrainian official, Anton Herashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Minister, released video of a Ukrainian soldier waving a flag in Zolota Balka, downriver from the former front line.
A senior US military official said Oct. 3 that attacks by Ukrainian forces had forced Russia into a “defensive crouch” in Kherson, hampering Russian efforts to resupply its front-line troops.
The official, who briefed reporters in Washington on condition of anonymity, said the US has seen only a small number of Russian reinforcements coming to Ukraine to bolster its defenses.
The recapture of Lyman was the most significant battlefield victory by Ukrainian forces in weeks, and followed a counteroffensive in the Kharkiv region to the north that swept Russian forces and stunned many observers.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said Washington was “very encouraged” by Ukraine’s achievements.
The US will soon deliver four more of the advanced missile systems to Ukraine, US officials said Oct. 3. The highly mobile artillery missile systems, known as HIMARS, are credited with helping the country’s military gain momentum in the war.
HIMARS were used to hit bridges that Russia used to resupply its troops. The additional four HIMARS will be part of a new $625 million aid package expected to be announced Oct. 4, according to US officials quoted in US media reports.
The decision marks the first time the US has sent more HIMARS to Ukraine since late July, and it will bring the total delivered to date to 20.
Lyman is at a crossroads and marshalling yard for railroads, and analysts say Ukrainian troops would likely use the town as a base for further eastward thrusts.
The city had been the scene of intense fighting for days, with Ukrainian troops gradually encircling it and the estimated 5,000 Russian troops defending it.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said Oct. 1 it was withdrawing troops from the area “in connection with the creation of a threatened encirclement.”
According to unconfirmed reports, Russian forces there had suffered heavy casualties and an unknown number of soldiers were taken prisoner.
It was the latest setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin, a day after he announced the annexation of four Ukrainian regions that have been partially occupied by Russian forces for months.
The Donetsk region, where Lyman is located, is one of the four regions that Putin claims.
Kyiv and the West have condemned the annexation declaration as illegal and a farce.
Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin ally and head of Russia’s Chechnya region, said Moscow should consider using a low-yield nuclear weapon in Ukraine after the loss of Lyman.
In a statement criticizing Russian generals for losing Lyman, Kadyrov said it was time the Kremlin used all the weapons at its disposal.
“I don’t know what the Defense Ministry is reporting to the Commander-in-Chief, but in my personal opinion we need to take more drastic measures, including imposing martial law in the border areas and using low-yield nuclear weapons,” Kadyrov said on his Telegram channel.
Putin’s declaration that Russia would annex Donetsk along with Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia was a major escalation by the Kremlin. Observers said this signaled further intervention by the Russian leadership and dampened prospects for a peace deal.
Together with Crimea, which Moscow captured in 2014, the four regions make up around 20 percent of Ukraine, including some of its most industrialized areas.
Russia’s battlefield setbacks also come amid reports of chaos in a mobilization ordered by Putin less than two weeks ago, in which tens of thousands of Russian men were suddenly drafted into the military and tens of thousands others fled abroad.
Mikhail Degtyarev, governor of the Khabarovsk region in Russia’s far east, said about half of the thousands of men drafted there were found unfit for duty and sent home. He said he had fired the region’s military commissar.
“The military commissar of the Khabarovsk region Yuri Laiko has been suspended,” Degtyaryev said in a video published on Telegram.
This will not affect the fulfillment of the tasks that the President has set for us,” Degtyaryev said in a Telegram video.