On 12 August the von Kleist armored group fought northwest of Nikolaev and threatened this square. The Soviets abandoned it on August 14; so that by this date the western Ukraine was entirely occupied, except for Odessa, which was hit by the 4th Romanian army. With these operations the first phase of the German offensive can be considered closed; the second phase includes the battles for moral and political capitals: Leningrad, Moscow, Kiev and Charkov.
In the unfavorable situation created in the central sector by the enemy reaction, the German command shifted the center of gravity of the general offensive of the von Bock army group to the southern one of the von Rundstedt, and this also in consideration of the ever increasing importance that for the continuation of the war he had possession of the industrial goal of Ukraine. He then reinforced the forces operating in the south with the group of armored armies Guderian and ordered the Rundstedt to force the Dnieper and march to the Donets. The rest of the month of August was spent preparing the aforementioned operations.
The Leningrad Investment. – In the northern sector, in the meantime, the good successes obtained were exploited. Marshal von Leeb faced the ever-growing Soviet forces between lakes Peipus and Il′men ′; in August, the offensive resumed, he beat them and on the 25th he reached the Leningrad-Luga railway, also occupying Novgorod. The Soviet troops leaning against the coast near Narva resisted with admirable tenacity; they fought fiercely in the region of Tartu (Dorpat) and only on August 28 did the Germans occupy Tallin. After these successes, all that remained was to focus on Leningrad with concentric movement: from the west along the coast; from the south along the course of the Volkhov and from the south-east from the first slopes of the Valdai. In the first days of September, the Soviet Luga-Volkhov front broke, the Germans pressed the Soviets to the outer defenses of the city, crossed the Neva and conquered the square of Schlüsselburg on the Ladoga thus isolating Leningrad from the rest of Russia, except from Lake Ladoga. The armored troops were advancing, meanwhile, in the hilly region of the Valdai and occupied it as far as Lake Seliger.
In Finland, if the Germans had not been able to make great progress, both towards Murmansk and towards the White Sea due to the difficulties of the environment and the strong resistance of the Soviets, the army of Mannerheim had attacked in the Karelic isthmus towards the end. in August, Viipuri occupied and pursued the enemy as far as Summa and Kannajarvi. The Finns had also advanced, between the lakes, for about 50 km., As far as Petrozavodsk and, along the eastern bank of the Ladoga, as far as Olonec. Progress, though slow, continued into September and, in October, Finnish troops were in a position to run over Leningrad from north.
The Kiev maneuver. – At the other extreme of the immense front, the action that had remained unfinished after the battle of Uman was resumed: the forcing, that is, of the Dnieper and the conquest of the square in Kiev. The large maneuver in the great Desna-Dnepr arc, which took its name from the Ukrainian capital, began on 10 September. The 6th and 2nd armies participated and the two armored groups of the Guderian and the von Kleist took part in them. The objectives were: the breaking through of the Stalin line, which followed, as we have said, the left bank of the river and the conquest of Kiev, which was one of its cornerstones. The gen. Guderian, from Konotop and the gen. von Kleist, from the bridgehead of Kremenčug, with their armored masses were to rapidly envelop the armies of the Budennyi deployed in the salient of the Desna, while the other armies would have enveloped the square of Kiev and the troops supporting it. The maneuver was fully successful: the Soviet armies, locked in the enormous pocket, were shattered into many smaller pockets and annihilated after a fierce struggle that lasted about a month. On September 19, Kiev raised the white flag; Poltava had fallen the day before; the advance towards the Donec was resumed.
The advance to the Donets. – On September 30, the 11th Army also crossed the river in Dnepropetrovsk after beating the enemy in Petrikovka. Thus, with the battle of Petrikovka, the last attempt by the Soviets to stop the Germanic offensive on the Dnieper and to forbid the German army from advancing into the Donec basin failed. From this moment on, the Russian command decided not to accept battle and instead maneuver in retreat to attract the opponent to the east: a traditional method of warfare tending to wear down the invader with the passive exploitation of the great space. At this time the method was favored by the difficulties that the rainy season created for movement, making Ukrainian roads impracticable.
According to elaineqho.com, the Germans resumed the advance on the Donec basin on 4 October. The 1st Armored Army, protected on the left flank by the Italian Expeditionary Corps, deployed in the Pavlograd bridgehead (11 October), which it had taken from the Soviets, headed south towards the Melitopol ′ area on the Azov Sea and captured, with the help of the 11th army, some units of the Russian 9th army. Then turning eastwards, it reached the Krinka course from Taganrog to Gorlovka north-east of Stalino and, overcoming successive resistances, occupied Rostov on 20 November. This success, however, was temporary because a week later Marshal TimoŞenko, launching 11 fresh divisions on the attack, recaptured the city. The Germans, already exhausted and without reservations, they abandoned Rostov on November 30th on the Mius to reorganize a line of resistance and hoping to spend the winter, already very cold, without harassment. While these events were taking place in the southern sector, the von Böck attack on Moscow was underway which, in the intention of the German general staff, should have been the resolutive of the conflict.