Putin has 'three doubles' claims Kyrylo Budanov
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Vladimir Putin’s army is reportedly abandoning two heavily fortified fronts in the east and the south of Ukraine as it continues to witness pressure from the Ukrainian forces, a news report has claimed. Ukrainian troops are advancing near the southern city of Kherson and reports from Russian sources say their troops are abandoning positions they have held since March, fearing they will be encircled.
The Times reported that Western officials said Ukrainian commanders in both regions were “throwing problems at the Russian chain of command faster than the Russians can effectively respond”.
One official said the situation in the south was “rapidly evolving”, with Ukrainian forces gaining momentum on one of their three axes of assault.
They are believed to be closing in on the port city of Nova Kakhovka, which officials said if retaken would pose a “critical challenge” to the viability of the Russian forces in Kherson.
In the past 48 hours, Ukrainian forces have pushed south along the west bank of the river, and Russian units have now been forced to pull back from several settlements in the north of Kherson region too.
In his nightly address on Tuesday, Zelensky said that Ukraine’s army was making “quite fast and powerful progress,” adding that Kyiv’s forces had retaken “dozens” of settlements in the four regions supposedly annexed by Russia last week.
Ukrainian troops launched two operations in the east and south of the country last month in an attempt to confuse Russian forces.
Vladimir Saldo, the Russian-installed leader in the Kherson region, admitted that Ukrainian forces had broken through enemy lines near Dudchany.
The town by the Dnipro river is about 20 miles south of the previous front line.
Mr Saldo said: “There are settlements that are occupied by Ukrainian forces.” Some reports suggested the town had been retaken.
Igor Konashenkov, the spokesman for the Russian defence ministry, said “numerically superior” Ukrainian tanks had “driven a deep wedge” south of another village that marked the previous front line on the river.
As many as 25,000 Russian troops are on the west bank of the Dnipro.
The Western official said the situation could become “increasingly messy with potentially a more desperate Russian force with their backs to the river Dnipro”, adding: “Ukraine is dictating the operational tempo at the moment.”
Western military sources said more Russian commanders were likely to be sacked.
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A war of words over Ukraine has intensified in recent days after President Putin suggested he would resort to nuclear weapons if Russia’s goals in Ukraine continued to be thwarted.
James Cleverly, the foreign secretary, warned that the use of such weapons would “not go without response”.
Elsewhere, Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine, greeted the defenders of the city of Mariupol as they were reunited with their families in Turkey following a prisoner swap which secured their release from Russian captivity.
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