Frontline entry by journalists is prohibited. But there were reports that Ukrainian troops had pushed into the city of Lysichansk in the Luhansk region, and were also fighting around the city of Sloviansk in the Donetsk region – a sign that Russia was in danger of losing territory it previously controlled in the East. Donbass region.
In a statement published on the website of the “Public Chamber” of the Luhansk People’s Republic, the deputy head of the chamber, Lena Voklova, called for a public referendum to approve the annexation and said the vote would “fulfill our dream of returning home”. . Russian Federation.”
One such message came from pro-Kremlin puppet officers in Donetsk.
Alexander Kaufman, the head of the Donetsk Public Chamber, said: “It’s time to erase the non-existent border between our countries, as it has long been erased in our hearts, and the public opinion on the question of whether the DPR should become part of Russia.” To collect.”
Before launching his full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February, Russian President Vladimir Putin formally recognized the independence of the two regions.
Russian officials have also discussed holding a referendum on Ukrainian territories seized during the war, but many of those plans have been thrown into uncertainty by Kyiv’s recent military gains.
In Moscow, some pro-war campaigners who have been pushing for a tough fight against Russia in Ukraine cheered the call for a merger.
“Today a referendum, tomorrow – recognition as part of the Russian Federation,” wrote Margarita Simonyan, chief editor of the RT television network. “The day after tomorrow – attacks on the territory of Russia become a full-fledged war between Ukraine and NATO with Russia, uniting the hands of Russia by all means.”
Ukrainian officials on Monday accused Russia of “nuclear terrorism” after a rocket reportedly hit it hundreds of yards from reactors at Ukraine’s second-largest nuclear power plant, causing three high-voltage power lines and A hydroelectric unit became disabled.
Ukraine’s national nuclear power company Energoatom said a “powerful explosion” occurred about 300 yards from the reactors of the South Ukraine nuclear power plant, near the city of Yuzhnoukrensk, just after midnight on Monday, sending shock waves to buildings. damaged and shattered. More than 100 windows.
The details of the rocket attack that Energoatum reported on its Telegram channel could not be independently verified. But Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky posted a short video of the damage, along with footage of the strike taken from a closed-circuit camera.
“Russia puts the whole world at risk,” Zelensky wrote in his Telegram post. “We have to stop it before it’s too late.”
Russia did not immediately comment on the allegation.
apprehension That Russia’s war in Ukraine could lead to nuclear catastrophe was focused until now at the country’s largest nuclear power station, Zaporizhzhya, where all six reactors have now been shut down. Repeated shelling and fire had cut the Zaporizhzhya plant from the national power grid, necessitating emergency measures to prevent essential cooling processes from being disrupted.
Before the war, Ukraine had four working nuclear power plants, which accounted for almost half of the country’s electricity generation.
A team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency Visited This month the Zaporizhzhia plant, and the agency’s director general, Rafael Mariano Grossi, have called for the establishment of a “nuclear security and security protection zone” around the facility, an area held by Russian forces.
On Saturday, Grossi reported that the Zaporizhzhya plant had been reconnected to the national electrical grid, but three of the four power lines were still cut. “The normalcy for the plant, located in the middle of the war zone, remains uncertain,” he said.
The South Ukraine Nuclear Power Plant is located about 250 miles west of the Zaporizhzhya plant, away from front-line fighting, and therefore faces a somewhat lower risk. The rocket attack appears to be part of a barrage of attacks on civilian infrastructure, which Russia launched after its messy withdrawal from the Kharkiv region.
The Kremlin’s top spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, pushed back on Monday against new charges of war crimes by Russian troops, freed in recent days in Izium and other Ukrainian cities in Kharkiv. Ukrainian authorities are documenting evidence of possible atrocities, including murders, sexual assault and torture.
“It’s a similar scenario to Bucha, where atrocities were discovered after Russian forces were driven out in April,” Peskov said in his daily conference call, referring to the Kyiv suburb. “It’s a lie,” Peskov continued, adding that Russia “will defend the truth throughout this story.”
awesome find The cemetery of 445 unmarked graves in the Izyum, and a mass grave containing the bodies of 17 Ukrainian soldiers, have sparked renewed calls for Russian soldiers, military commanders and officers to be tried for war crimes.
Russia’s chaotic withdrawal from Kharkiv has revealed deep weaknesses in its armed forces, with analysts and experts saying it would be difficult if not impossible for Russia to recapture the liberated areas without full-scale military mobilization and a national draft .
Recruiting for Moscow was already a challenge, a senior US defense official told reporters on Monday, and Ukraine’s invasion of the east has forced new Russian troops into combat, prompting some to deny. Is. The official spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the Pentagon.
Putin has come under increasing pressure over the war, including a surprise public rebuke by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization meeting in Uzbekistan last week. At the same summit, Putin acknowledged questions and concerns about the war from Chinese President Xi Jinping.
At home, Putin is being squeezed by right-wing hawkers who are demanding that he attack Ukraine more vigorously and declare a national draft, and by critics of the war on the left, who risk arrest and prosecution. ready to be brave. to speak out.
In a surprising development, 73-year-old Alla Pugacheva, a Russian pop icon who rose to fame in Soviet times and is especially loved by older people, publicly voiced her opposition to the war on Sunday.
In a post on Instagram, where she has 3.4 million followers, Pugacheva insisted that the Russians were dying needlessly for “delusional purposes.”
Alex Horton in Washington and Robin Dixon in Riga, Latvia, Mary Ilyushina and Natalia Abbakumova contributed to this report.