Ukraine moves into free land, separatists call for immediate referendum

  • Ukraine says its forces have captured the nearby village of Lisichansky
  • Separatist leader calls for urgent referendum on joining Russia
  • “The occupants are clearly in a panic,” Zelensky

IZIUM, Ukraine, Sep 20 (Reuters) – Ukraine said its troops have marched east into territory recently occupied by Russia, paving the way for a possible attack on Moscow’s occupying forces in the Donbass region Because Kyiv is looking for more western weapons.

“The occupiers are clearly in a panic,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised address late Monday, adding that he was now focusing on “speeding up” in the liberated areas.

“The speed at which our troops are moving. The speed at which normal life is restored,” Zelensky said.

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The Ukrainian leader also indicated that he would use a video address to the UN General Assembly on Wednesday to call on countries to accelerate arms and aid delivery.

“We are doing everything we can to ensure that Ukraine’s needs are met at all levels – defence, financial, economic, diplomatic,” Zelensky said.

Provincial governor Serhi Gaidai said Ukraine’s armed forces had gained full control of the village of Bilohorivka and were preparing to retake Luhansk province from Russian occupation. The village is only 10 km (6 mi) west of the city of Lysychansk, which fell to the Russians in July after weeks of fighting at the Grind.

“For every centimeter there will be a fight,” Gaidai wrote on Telegram. “The enemy is preparing his defense. So we just won’t go in.”

Luhansk and the neighboring Donetsk province include the industrial eastern region of the Donbass, which Moscow says it intends to seize as the primary objective of a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

Ukrainian troops have begun pushing into Luhansk after Russian forces were driven out of northeastern Kharkiv province in a lightning strike this month.

In a sign of panic from the Moscow-backed administration in the Donbass about the success of Ukraine’s recent attack, its leader called for an immediate referendum on the region becoming part of Russia.

Denis Pushilin, the head of the Moscow-based separatist administration in Donetsk, called on his fellow separatist leader in Luhansk to coordinate efforts toward preparing a referendum on joining Russia. read more

To the south, where another Ukrainian counteroffensive is making slow progress, Ukraine’s armed forces said they had sunk a barge carrying Russian troops and equipment across a river near Nova Kakhovka in the Kherson region.

“Efforts to make a crossing failed to withstand the fire of Ukrainian forces and were halted. The barge … became an addition to the captured submarine force,” the military said in a statement on Facebook.

Reuters could not independently confirm either side’s battlefield report.

grave graves

Ukraine is still assessing what happened in areas that had been under Russian control for months before a defeat by Russian troops dramatically changed the dynamics of the war earlier this month.

Kharkiv regional governor Ole Sinyhubov said on Monday that forensic experts in Ukraine have so far excavated 146 bodies buried without coffins in a huge temporary cemetery in the forest near Izyum. Some 450 graves have been found at the site, Zelensky said.

Fanning out in groups under trees, workers used shovels to remove partially decomposed bodies, some of which locals said were lying on city streets long after they died before being buried.

The government has yet to say how most of the people were killed, although officials say dozens were killed in an apartment building shelling, and there are signs others were killed by shrapnel.

According to preliminary examinations, four showed signs of torture, with their hands tied behind their backs, or in one case a rope tied around their necks, Serhi Bolvinov, chief of investigative police in the Kharkiv region, told Reuters at the burial ground. Told.

Bolvinov said most of the bodies appeared to be civilians. Locals are identifying their dead by matching the names on the wooden crosses marking the graves. read more

“The hands of the soldiers were tied, there were traces of atrocities on civilians,” Bolvinov said. Ukraine says 17 soldiers were in a mass grave at the scene. read more

Reuters could not confirm Ukraine’s allegations of torture.

The Kremlin on Monday denied that Russia was to blame for the atrocities Ukraine says it has uncovered in the recaptured territory.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov compared the allegations to earlier events in the war, saying, “It is a lie, and of course we will defend the truth in this story.”

nuclear plant alarm

Ukraine on Monday accused the Russian military of shelling near the Pivdnoukrainsk nuclear power plant in the country’s southern Mykolaiv region.

Ukraine’s nuclear power operator Energoatum said in a statement that an explosion occurred 300 meters (yards) from the reactors and damaged power plant buildings shortly after midnight on Monday.

There was no damage to the reactors and no workers were hurt, it said, publishing photos showing a large crater, which it said was caused by an explosion.

“Russia puts the whole world at risk. We have to stop it before it’s too late,” Zelensky said in a social media post.

The strikes will add to global concern over the prospect of a nuclear disaster already escalating by fighting around Zaporizhzhya, another nuclear power plant in the south captured by Russian forces in March.

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reporting by the Reuters Bureau; Written by Rami Job and Stephen Coates; Editing by Cynthia Osterman and Michael Perry

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principals.

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