Ukrainian servicemen on patrol, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Izium, liberated by Ukrainian Armed Forces
Ukrainian servicemen on patrol, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Izium, liberated by Ukrainian Armed Forces (Picture: Reuters/Alamy Stock Photo).
Russia

Ukraine pushes frontline back 20km as Putin signs final annexation papers

Ukrainian servicemen on patrol, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Izium, liberated by Ukrainian Armed Forces
Ukrainian servicemen on patrol, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Izium, liberated by Ukrainian Armed Forces (Picture: Reuters/Alamy Stock Photo).

Ukraine's armed forces have started a "new phase of offensive operations" in Kherson, according to the Ministry of Defence (MOD).

This offensive has seen Ukrainian forces move south, pushing the frontline back by an additional 20km.

In an update on Twitter, the MOD said this has seen Ukraine "primarily making gains along the east bank of the Inhulets and west bank of the Dnipro, but not yet threatening the main Russian defensive positions".

"Russian forces have typically broken contact and withdrawn. Russian commanders are likely to see the growing threat to the Nova Kakhovka sector as one of their most pressing concerns," the MOD said.

"The damaged river crossing over the Dnipro in this area remains one of the few routes available for them to resupply forces.

"Russia faces a dilemma: withdrawal of combat forces across the Dnipro makes defence of the rest of Kherson Oblast more tenable; but the political imperative will be to remain and defend."

The update also outlined how Russia had "committed the majority of its severely undermanned airborne forces, the VDV, to the defence of Kherson".

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"Therefore, Russia currently has few additional, high quality rapidly deployable forces available to stabilise the front: it likely aims to deploy mobilised reservists to the sector."

It comes as Vladimir Putin signed the final papers to annex four regions of Ukraine while his military struggled to control the new territory that was added in violation of international laws.

In Lyman, an eastern town liberated after more than four months of Russian occupation, residents emerged from their destroyed homes to receive packages of food and medicine.

In a defiant move, the Kremlin held the door open for further land grabs in Ukraine.

Speaking in a conference call with reporters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that "certain territories will be reclaimed, and we will keep consulting residents who would be eager to embrace Russia".

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Mr Peskov did not specify which additional Ukrainian territories Moscow is eyeing, and he would not say if the Kremlin planned to organize more such "referendums,"

Mr Putin last week signed treaties that purported to absorb Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions into Russia.

The annexation followed Kremlin-orchestrated "referendums" in Ukraine that the Ukrainian government and the West have dismissed as illegitimate.

The Russian president defended the validity of the vote, saying it is "more than convincing" and "absolutely transparent and not subject to any doubt".

"This is objective data on people's mood," Mr Putin said on Wednesday at an event dedicated to teachers, adding that he was pleasantly "surprised" by the results.

The precise borders of the areas Moscow is claiming remain unclear, but Mr Putin has vowed to defend Russia's territory – including the annexed regions – with any means at his military's disposal, including nuclear weapons.