Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday said he hoped the situation would “stabilize” in regions of Ukraine annexed by the Kremlin after Moscow suffered a military defeat and lost several key towns to Kyiv.
He also ordered his government to gain control of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant in the Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia region with IAEA chief Rafael Grossi en route to Kyiv for consultations on the facility.
Ukraine had earlier claimed victory over Russian troops in the eastern Lugansk region as the Kremlin vowed to recapture territory lost in a lightning Ukrainian counterattack.
In recent weeks, Ukrainian forces, backed by Western weapons, have driven Russian troops out of a series of towns and villages in the southern Kherson region and separatist strongholds. in the east such as Lugansk and Donetsk.
“We are working on the assumption that the situation in the new territories will stabilize,” Putin told Russian teachers during a televised video call.
Just a few hours earlier, the head of Lugansk, Sergiy Gaiday, appointed by Ukraine, announced that “the liberation of the Lugansk region has officially begun”.
A senior Russian lawmaker has called on military officials to tell the truth about developments on the ground in Ukraine after a string of crushing defeats.
“We need to stop lying,” the chairman of the lower house of parliament’s defense committee, Andrei Kartapolov, told a journalist from state media.
“The defense ministry’s reports are unchanged. The people know. Our people are not stupid. This can lead to discrediting.”
Regions become ‘Russian forever’
On Wednesday, Putin signed into law the annexation of four Ukrainian territories – including Lugansk – as the European Union agreed to a new round of sanctions against Moscow in response.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would regain the land it lost to Kyiv in the annexed areas, vowing that they would be “Russians forever and will not be returned”.
Initially, Putin signed agreements with the leaders of four regions installed by Moscow to become subjects of the Russian Federation, despite condemnation from Kyiv and the West.
Four territories – Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk and Zaporizhzhia – create a land corridor between Russia and the Crimean peninsula, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014.
Together, the five regions account for about 20% of Ukraine.
The Kremlin annexed territories after hastily conducting referendums, which were accused by Kyiv and its Western allies as null and void, but has yet to confirm which of them exactly. that is being merged.
Russian forces do not have full control of Kherson or Zaporizhzhia and have recently lost control of several settlements in Donetsk.
The latest battlefield maps from Moscow show that Russian troops have left many areas in Kherson, including along the western bank of the Dnipro River.
‘Living like a mouse’
At Kharkiv, maps indicated that Moscow’s forces had almost completely abandoned the eastern bank of the Oskil, potentially giving the Ukrainians space to encircle important troop transport and supply corridors. Russian team.
While Russian authorities have largely remained silent about the extent of the defeat, war correspondents of the pro-Kremlin media admit that the military is struggling.
“There won’t be any good news in the near future. Neither from the Kherson front nor from Lugansk,” wrote journalist Alexander Kots on his Telegram channel with more than 640,000 followers.
In the town of Lyman, Ukrainian police officers returned to the station that the Russian occupation forces used until last week.
“They live like rats,” said the town’s police chief, Igor Ugnivenko, returning to his pre-invasion office and surveying the debris.
In front of the central administrative building, people who are mainly elderly people lined up to wait for two ambulances to distribute meager humanitarian aid.
“I don’t know if the situation is better or worse,” said Tatiana Slavuta, 62, as Ukrainian forces recaptured the town.
“All the shops are closed, we have no money, we have no light. Nothing.
“We didn’t see any change,” she added before self-correcting and brightening.
‘Now there is silence’
“At least for now there is silence – no shelling.”
Putin’s decision to take control of the Zaporizhzhia plant comes after months of tension surrounding the plant, with both sides blaming each other for strikes that have raised fears of a radioactive catastrophe.
“We are on our way to Kyiv for important meetings,” the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi wrote on Twitter. Twitter, said the need for a protected area around the site was “more urgent than ever”.
On Tuesday, US President Joe Biden told Zelensky that $625 million in military assistance was underway.
The new batch includes more HIMARS missile launchers, allowing Ukraine to attack Russian command posts and weapons stockpiles behind the front lines.
From the EU, there are no details on the nature of the newly agreed sanctions against Russia.
The latest package – the eighth since the Russian invasion in February – is currently going through the final approval process, which, if no objections emerge, will be published and take effect on Thursday, EU ambassador of the Czech Republic said on Twitter.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)