Ukrainian forces make major advance as Russians rush to officiate annexation

Ukrainian forces achieved their biggest breakthrough in the south of the country since the war began, bursting through the front and advancing rapidly along the Dnipro River on Monday, threatening supply lines for thousands of Russian troops.

Kyiv gave no official confirmation of the gains, but Russian sources acknowledge that a Ukrainian tank offensive had advanced dozens of kilometers along the river's west bank, reclaiming a number of villages along the way.

The breakthrough by Ukraine follows recent successes in the east that have turned the tide in the war against Russia, even as Moscow tries to raise the stakes by annexing territory, ordering mobilisation and threatening nuclear retaliation.

The capturing of Dudchany 30 kilometres south of where the front stood before the breakthrough, indicates one of the fastest advances of the war and by far the most rapid in the south along a mainly static front line, since the early weeks of the invasion.

Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to Ukraine's interior ministry, posted footage of Ukrainian soldiers raising their flag in the Myroliubivka village in Kherson region.

A photo of Ukrainian soldiers posing with their flag draping a golden statue of an angel in the village of Mikhailivka, around 20 kilometers beyond the previous front also surfaced online. There’s no official information released by the Ukrainian military officials yet, but Russian social media pages seem to be now in a panicking fit.

The advance in the south mirrors the tactics that have brought Kyiv major gains since the start of September in eastern Ukraine, where its forces swiftly seized territory to gain control of Russian supply lines, cutting off larger Russian forces and forcing them to retreat.

Just hours after a concert on Moscow's Red Square on Friday where Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the provinces of Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to be Russian territory forever, Ukraine recaptured Lyman the main Russian bastion in the north of Donetsk province.

That has opened the way for the Ukrainians to advance deep into Luhansk province, threatening the main supply routes to territory Moscow had captured in some of the war's bloodiest battles in June and July.

In the south, Ukraine's advance targeted supply lines for thousands of Russian troops estimated upwards 25,000, on the west bank of the Dnipro. Ukraine has already destroyed the main bridges, forcing Russian forces to use makeshift crossings. A substantial advance down river could cut them off entirely.

“The fact we have broken through the front means that ... the Russian army has already lost the ability to attack, and today or tomorrow it could lose the ability to defend,” said Oleh Zhdanov, a military analyst based in Kyiv.

“A month of our work destroying their supplies and reducing the combat effectiveness of this group means that they are functioning on minimal rations in terms of ammunition, fuel and food.”

Putin has been responding to Russia's failures on the battlefield over the past month by escalating: proclaiming the annexation of occupied territory, calling up tens of thousands of men as reservists and threatening nuclear retaliation.

Following hastily organised votes in Kherson, Donetsk, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions on incorporating them into Russia that Ukraine and the West have denounced as coercive and illegitimate, the lower house of Russia's parliament approved laws on Monday on annexing the four occupied Ukrainian territories.

“The decision was taken unanimously. There are 89 entities in the Russian Federation,” parliament speaker Vyacheslav Volodin posted on Telegram, along with a map of Russia including the four regions, as well as Crimea, which Russia seized from Ukraine without international recognition in 2014.

The resolutions had not been expected to face any opposition in either the Duma or the upper house, the Federation Council, which act largely as rubber stamps for Kremlin policy.

Despite Russia beginning theformal process of annexing the four Ukrainian territories last week, none of them are fully under the control of its forces as Ukraine has been making progress in counter-offensives in the south and east. There were demands for the commanders of Russian forces in eastern Ukraine to be stripped of medals and sent to the front line.

Putin's other big gamble, Russia's first mass military mobilisation since World War Two, has been mired in chaos. While tens of thousands of men have been called up, similar numbers have been fleeing abroad. The West is convinced that Russia lacks the resources to train or equip the new conscripts.

Governor of the Khabarovsk region in Russia's Far East Mikhail Degtyarev said on Monday that around half of those called up from around there had been found to be unfit and sent home. He has also fired the region's military commissar.