KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian forces have broken through Moscow’s defenses in the strategic southern Kherson region, the Russian military acknowledged Monday.
Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in his daily briefing that “with superior tank units in the direction of Zolotaya Balka, Aleksandrovka, the enemy managed to penetrate into the depths of our defense.” Konashenkov added that “Russian troops have occupied a prepared defensive line and continue to inflict massive fire damage” on Kyiv’s forces.
Kherson is one of the four regions illegally annexed by Moscow last week after a “referendum”. Kherson has been one of the toughest battlefields for the Ukrainians, with slower progress when compared with Ukraine’s breakout offensive in the northeast around the country’s second-largest city of Kharkiv that began last month.
As the front lines shifted, the political theater in Moscow continued. Russia’s lower house of parliament on Monday quickly rubber-stamped an endorsement of the treaties for four regions of Ukraine to join Russia, a move that will be followed by the upper house on Tuesday.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said before the vote Monday that two regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, are joining Russia with the same administrative borders that existed before a conflict erupted there in 2014 between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces. But he noted that the issue of the borders of the two other regions — Zaporizhzhia and Kherson — remains open.
“We will continue to discuss that with residents of those regions,” Peskov told reporters, without elaborating.
Ukraine has pressed its counteroffensive in the Kherson region since the summer, relentlessly pummeling Russian supply lines and making inroads into the areas west of the Dnieper River held by the Russians.
The Ukrainian military has used U.S.-supplied HIMARS multiple rocket launchers to repeatedly hit the main bridge across the Dnieper in the city of Kherson and a dam that served as a second main crossing. It also has struck pontoon bridges that Russia has used to supply its troops on the western bank of the river.
Despite the successful strikes on supply lines, Ukrainian offensive operations in the south have been slower and less successful than the northeast, as the open terrain easily exposes attacking forces to Russian artillery fire and airstrikes.
Russia attacked Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky’s hometown and other targets Sunday with suicide drones, and Ukraine took back full control of a strategic eastern city in a counteroffensive that has reshaped the war.