Ukraine conflict: Ukraine putting pressure on territory 'essential' to Russian war effort as referendums to become part of Russia begin

The Ministry of Defence has reported that Ukraine is now putting pressure on Russian territory that the Kremlin considers to be ‘essential’ to its war effort.

This photograph shows a destroyed Orthodox monastery in recently released Dolina village, Donetsk region, on September 22, 2022. (Photo by Anatolii Stepanov / AFP) (Photo by ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images)
This photograph shows a destroyed Orthodox monastery in recently released Dolina village, Donetsk region, on September 22, 2022. (Photo by Anatolii Stepanov / AFP) (Photo by ANATOLII STEPANOV/AFP via Getty Images)

In their latest intelligence briefing, the MoD stated that in the last three days, Ukrainian forces have secured key bridgeheads in Kharkiv and that territory is being reclaimed, despite the battlefield situation remaining complex.

The update reads: “In the last three days, Ukrainian forces have secured bridgeheads on the east bank of the Oskil River in Kharkiv Oblast. Russia has attempted to integrate the Oskil into a consolidated defensive line following its forces’ withdrawal earlier in the month.

"To the south, in Donetsk Oblast, fighting is ongoing as Ukrainian forces assault the town of Lyman, east of the Siverskyy Donest River, which Russia captured in May."

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It added: “The battlefield situation remains complex, but Ukraine is now putting pressure on territory Russia considers essential to its war aims.”

The BBC reports that queues have formed at border crossings since President Vladimir Putin announced a partial military mobilisation on Wednesday, which could see 300,000 people summoned to fight.

Voting has begun in Moscow-held regions of Ukraine on referendums to become part of Russia, Russian-backed officials there said.

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Ukrainian soldiers ride a tank in eastern Ukraine, on September 22, 2022, amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Juan BARRETO / AFP) (Photo by JUAN BARRETO/AFP via Getty Images)

The Kremlin-orchestrated referendums, which have been widely denounced by Ukraine and the West as shams without any legal force, are seen as a step toward annexing the territories by Russia.

The votes are being held in the Luhansk, partly Russian-controlled Zaporizhzhia and Donetsk regions.

In Kherson, which is almost fully controlled by Moscow, the balloting was also expected to get underway on Friday morning.

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The vote, which asks residents if they want their regions to be part of Russia, is certain to go Moscow’s way.

That would give Russia the pretext to claim that attempts by Ukrainian forces to regain control are attacks on Russia itself, dramatically escalating the seven-month-old conflict.

The balloting will continue for five days until Tuesday.

According to Russian-installed officials in the occupied regions, who cited safety reasons, during the first four days election officials will be bringing ballots to people’s homes and setting up makeshift polling stations near residential buildings.

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Polls also opened in Russia, where refugees from the occupied regions can cast their votes.

Valentina Matviyenko, chairwoman of Russia’s upper parliament house, said residents of the occupied regions were voting for “life or death” at the referendums.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky only briefly mentioned the “sham referenda” in his nightly address in which he switched from speaking in Ukrainian to Russian to directly tell Russian citizens they are being “thrown to their deaths”.

“You are already accomplices in all these crimes, murders and torture of Ukrainians,” he said. “Because you were silent. Because you are silent. And now it’s time for you to choose. For men in Russia, this is a choice to die or live, to become a cripple or to preserve health. For women in Russia, the choice is to lose their husbands, sons, grandchildren forever, or still try to protect them from death, from war, from one person.”