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Ukrainian forces advance in regions seized by Russia as Putin vows ‘stabilization’

A soldier with the Ukrainian Land Forces loads an 82mm mortar. (Adriana M. Diaz-Brown/TNS)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

Ukrainian forces have continued their advance in the south and east, retaking territory occupied by Moscow, even as President Vladimir Putin said he expected the situation to “stabilize” in the four Ukrainian regions incorporated by Russia last week.

Putin also ordered his government to seize immediate control over Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant, located in the Russian-controlled region of Zaporizhzhya, prompting Rafael Grossi, the head of the UN nuclear agency, to depart for Kyiv for consultations on the facility with Ukrainian authorities.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly address late on October 5 that Novovoskresenske, Novohryhorivka, and Petropavlivka settlements to the northeast of the city of Kherson had been “liberated.”

Kherson is the capital of one of four partially Russian-occupied regions that the Kremlin formally seized, along with Donetsk, Luhansk, and Zaporizhzhya.

Oleksandr Starukh, the Ukrainian governor of Zaporizhzhya, said early on October 6 that shelling by Russian forces killed at least two people overnight, damaged or destroyed several residential buildings, and caused widespread fires.

In the eastern region of Luhansk, which has been almost completely under Russian control since the start of Moscow’s unprovoked invasion in February, Ukraine also claimed victories over Russian forces.

The region’s Ukrainian governor, Serhiy Hayday, told Ukrainian television that Kyiv’s military liberated six settlements in Luhansk. He did not specify the names of these settlements out of concern that Russian forces would then attack them.

“I will hold a pause until the official information of the General Staff. I can only say that these are six settlements,” Hayday said.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense confirmed the Ukrainian advance in Kherson in its daily intelligence bulletin on October 6.

“Advancing south, Ukrainian units have pushed the front line forwards by up to an additional 20 kilometers,” the bulletin said.

Putin indirectly acknowledged Moscow’s difficulties in asserting its control over the regions it seized, voicing hope the situation will “stabilize.”

“We are working on the assumption that the situation in the new territories will stabilize,” Putin told Russian teachers during a televised video call on October 5.

Putin also ordered the Russian state to seize complete control of the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant, a move immediately rejected by Kyiv.

“The Zaporizhzhya nuclear plant is now on the territory of the Russian Federation and, accordingly, should be operated under the supervision of our relevant agencies,” RIA Novosti news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin as saying.

The plant, which has been occupied by Russian forces since March, is still run by Ukrainian engineers.

Rosenergoatom, Russia’s nuclear power operator, said it would transfer the Ukrainian employees to a new Russian-owned organization.

Ukraine’s state nuclear energy company, Enerhoatom, said Putin’s decree and other Russian documents regarding the Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant were “worthless, absurd, and inadequate.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency’s Grossi on October 5 said he was headed to Kyiv by train and would visit Moscow later this week.

Grossi said negotiations on a safe zone around the plant were more important than ever.

As Ukrainian forces continued to make advances into several of the four regions seized by Moscow, a senior Russian lawmaker called on military officials to tell the truth about developments on the ground.

“We need to stop lying,” the chairman of the lower house of parliament’s Defense Committee, Andrei Kartapolov, told a journalist from state-run media.

“The reports of the Defense Ministry do not change. The people know. Our people are not stupid. This can lead to loss of credibility.”