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Ukraine Forces Take Control of Key River Bank, Extending Advance in East

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Ukraine Forces Take Control of Key River Bank, Extending Advance in East

Ukrainian forces said they now control the eastern bank of the Oskil River in the Kharkiv region, cementing strategic gains as part of a rapid counteroffensive and putting them closer to the Russian-held cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, while Moscow continues to launch attacks against civilian infrastructure in Ukraine following its military setbacks in the country’s east.

Strategic Command of the Ukrainian Armed Forces posted a video on social media on Sunday that appeared to show an armored vehicle crossing the river, along with the message, “Ukraine controls the left bank.”

The claim suggests Ukraine’s push east is continuing after its forces seized about 3,500 square miles of territory in the northeastern Kharkiv region in a lightning offensive earlier this month that put Moscow on the back foot.

Ukrainian troops are now within about 20 miles of the Luhansk region, which Moscow captured months ago and whose seizure the Kremlin has repeatedly called one of its priorities for the war in Ukraine.

Men in Kupyansk watched smoke rise in the distance across the Oskil River.

Photo:

yasuyoshi chiba/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Ukrainian President

Volodymyr Zelensky

said in a video address late on Monday that Ukrainian forces were holding their positions in the Kharkiv region. On Sunday night, Mr. Zelensky vowed to continue fighting until all Ukrainian territory had been retaken, including areas of the eastern Donbas area, which includes Luhansk, and Crimea that Russia seized in 20src4.

“Ukraine must be free—the whole of it,” Mr. Zelensky said Sunday, naming a list of cities currently under Russian occupation that he vowed to win back.

Russian-installed local authorities accused Ukrainian forces of launching a strike Monday on the city of Donetsk that killed src3 civilians, including two children. Eight people were injured. The strike targeted a public-transportation stop, a store and a bank, according to

Denis Pushilin,

head of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic. Bloodied bodies on a shopping street were seen in video clips posted on Russian Telegram channels.

Ukraine’s defense ministry didn’t respond to a request for comment on the strike.

Some analysts have asked whether Ukrainian forces may be overextending themselves after their speedy advance, but

Ben Hodges,

a former commander of the U.S. Army in Europe, said the potential threat in the area might come from Russian territory, though he doubted Moscow could launch an offensive from Belgorod, a Russian city close to Ukraine, without Kyiv being aware of it ahead of time.

Retired Lt. Gen. Hodges said the Ukrainians were trying to keep pressure on the Russians to prevent them establishing a strong new defensive line.

“If you’re launching a counteroffensive and having great success, the two things in the front of your mind are, how do I keep up momentum and are my flanks exposed?” he said. “Wherever they can find a flank or a key intersection necessary for logistics to support Russian forces, they’re going to try to [target] that.”

A soldier on a tank in recently liberated Izyum, Ukraine.

Photo:

Adrienne Surprenant/MYOP for The Wall Street Journal

Workers exhumed bodies from a mass burial site discovered in Izyum.

Photo:

Adrienne Surprenant/MYOP for The Wall Street Journal

Russian forces, meanwhile, had established a new defensive line between the river and the town of Svatove in the Luhansk region over the weekend, according to the British Ministry of Defense. The ministry said Russia would likely defend the area aggressively after suffering a swift rout in the Kharkiv region, allowing Ukrainian forces to seize swaths of land in a few days.

Battlefield setbacks have continued for Moscow. The British ministry said Russia had lost at least four combat jets in Ukraine within the last src0 days, for a total loss of around 55 jets since the start of the invasion.

“There is a realistic possibility that this uptick in losses is partially a result of the Russian air force accepting greater risk as it attempts to provide close air support to Russian ground forces under pressure from Ukrainian advances,” the ministry wrote on

Twitter.

“Russia’s continued lack of air superiority remains one of the most important factors underpinning the fragility of its operational design in Ukraine.”

The top U.S. military officer warned allies late Sunday that Russia’s losses in Ukraine could lead Moscow to respond with strikes outside the country.

“I’m particularly interested in checking things like force protection, to ensure that [U.S. forces] are in an adequate state of readiness in the event of anything ever happening,” said Army Gen.

Mark Milley,

chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in Warsaw late on Sunday after visiting a military base in Poland.

Gen. Milley stressed that he had no indication that Russia was planning to strike North Atlantic Treaty Organization territories but that there was some uncertainty as to how it would react to Ukraine’s successful counteroffensive in the country’s east.

“And because of that, we have to very closely watch what Russia’s reactions to that will be,” he said.

Ukraine said it discovered a mass burial site on the outskirts of Izyum after it was recaptured from Russian forces. WSJ’s Stephen Kalin reports from the city, where investigators are trying to identify the bodies and determine what happened. Photo: Sergey Bobok/AFP/Getty Images

For now, Moscow’s response has focused on attacking Ukraine’s civilian infrastructure. Early Monday morning, Ukrainian officials said, a Russian airstrike hit the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant in Ukraine’s southern Mykolaiv region.

A Russian missile struck the ground about 300 yards from the South Ukraine nuclear power plant, forcing a brief shutdown, Ukraine’s state-owned atomic energy corporation Energoatom said.

The nuclear plant, Ukraine’s second-biggest, is far from the front lines. It sits about src50 miles from the larger Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, a Russian-occupied facility which has been the center of global efforts to prevent the continuing war from causing a nuclear disaster.

Energoatom officials said the strike had caused minimal damage. Still, it showed Russia’s willingness to hit critical electrical infrastructure, including those near and around nuclear plants, Ukrainian officials said.

Surveillance footage showed a strike on the Pivdennoukrainsk nuclear power plant in Ukraine’s southern Mykolaiv region.

Photo:

ENERGOATOM STATE COMPANY/via REUTERS

“Russia endangers the whole world,” Energoatom said. “We have to stop it before it’s too late.”

Since the Ukrainian offensive in the Kharkiv region, Russia has knocked out electricity to much of the area and hit a dam in Kryviy Rih, Mr. Zelensky’s hometown, which caused flooding in the city.

The Kremlin didn’t comment on the strike on the nuclear facility.

Russian President

Vladimir Putin

is facing growing pressure at home, seeing an invasion he pitched as a swift military operation now approaching its seventh month of grinding warfare.

Alla Pugacheva, a famous singer in Russia, has become the most recognizable Russian to publicly criticize the war. In a post Sunday on Instagram, where she has 3.4 million followers, Ms. Pugacheva wrote that Russians were dying in Ukraine for “illusory aims” and that the war is turning Russia into a “pariah and worsening the lives of our citizens.”

Ms. Pugacheva, 73 years old, is one of Russia’s most-famous celebrities, who first became well-known during the Soviet era. She is adored by a swath of Russian society and was feted by Mr. Putin in 20src4, when he awarded her an Order for Merit to the Fatherland.

Kremlin spokesman

Dmitry Peskov

declined to respond to questions from reporters on Ms. Pugacheva’s criticism on Monday. On Sunday evening, Pyotr Tolstoy, a lawmaker, wrote on his Telegram channel that the singer had “lost touch with reality.”

Ukrainian flags flew above captured Russian tanks near Izyum.

Photo:

GLEB GARANICH/REUTERS

In a sign of Moscow’s increasing international isolation, a deadline for Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and Poland to close their borders to Russian tourists—even if they hold a visa from a member of Europe’s Schengen document-free travel area—expired on Monday.

The sights of numerous Russian tourists visiting European countries from Finland to Spain in the midst of Russia’s invasion of its neighbor caused an uproar on the continent over the summer, sparking calls for a crackdown on Russians traveling in the bloc.

“That is why we have also been advocating for the tourist visa ban. So that the St. Petersburg and Muscovite elite that have some sort of influence over the Kremlin will feel that is also affecting their lives, that the war is going on,” Estonia’s prime minister,

Kaja Kallas,

told The Wall Street Journal last week in Tallinn. “Every citizen is still responsible for their country’s deeds.”

The ban, announced on Sept. 8, doesn’t apply to Russians visiting relatives in the affected countries or those requiring humanitarian assistance, including dissidents.

Earlier this month, the European Union issued new guidelines suspending fast-track visa approval for Russian tourists, making visa applications lengthier and more expensive.

Destroyed buildings in Izyum.

Photo:

oleg petrasyuk/epa-efe/Shutterstock

— Yuliya Chernova, Nancy A. Youssef, Drew Hinshaw and Evan Gershkovich contributed to this article.

Write to Ian Lovett at ian.lovett@wsj.com

Corrections & Amplifications

Maxim Petrov and Dmytro Shabanov are representatives of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. An earlier version of this article incorrectly gave Mr. Petrov’s last name as Petkov in one instance. The article also gave Mr. Shabanov’s first name as Dmitry. In addition, one of the reporters who contributed to this article is Drew Hinshaw. His last name was incorrectly given as Henshaw. (Corrected on Sept. src9, 2022)

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