Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration, has confirmed that Ukrainian troops have re-entered the eastern Luhansk region and will “keep moving in that direction.”
CNN reported Wednesday that Ukrainian units had entered the village of Hrekivka in Luhansk.
“I’ve seen some soldiers already posted a photo of them standing on the background of the sign ‘Hrekivka’, so its not a secret anymore — it is already liberated. And we keep moving in that direction,” Hayday posted on Telegram.
Hayday said he expected difficult battles ahead as Ukrainian forces push into Luhansk, now absorbed into Russia after President Vladimir Putin signed a decree declaring the annexation of the region.
“After liberating Lyman [in Donetsk at the end of last month], as expected, the main battles are on the direction of Kreminna. The occupiers are pulling their main forces there. This is where the beginning of de-occupation of Luhansk oblast lies,” Hayday said.
“Luhansk region liberation will be tougher than Kharkiv region. All those Russian military who ran from Kharkiv region and Lyman ran to our direction, so the occupation forces increased in number,” he added.
“There will be no element of surprise, like during the Kharkiv region operation. Now they had the time to prepare, to build fortifications, to entrench deeper, to bring in some equipment, some reserves. However, I believe in the Armed Forces of Ukraine and I believe that the forces of L/DPR [Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics] will not be able to hold the defense for long,” he continued.
More on Ukraine’s counteroffensive: Between April and June, the Ukrainian military was gradually pushed out of parts of Luhansk region that it held. Several towns and cities in the region were largely destroyed in weeks of bitter fighting.
Analysts expect Russian forces and their allies to seek to defend new lines running north from Kreminna to Svatove.