© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A Ukrainian soldier looks out from a tank, against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in the frontline city of Lyman, Donetsk region, Ukraine April 28, 2022. REUTERS / Jorge Silva
By Tom Balmforth and Pavel Polityuk
KYIV (Reuters) -Ukraine on Sunday announced full control of the logistics hub east of Lyman, Kyiv’s most important battlefield interest in weeks, providing a potential array of troops for further attacks. east while putting more pressure on the Kremlin.
The stinging defeat for Russian President Vladimir Putin came after he announced the annexation of four regions that make up nearly a fifth of Ukraine’s territory on Friday, one that includes Lyman. Kyiv and the West have condemned the statement as an illegal farce.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the capture of the town, where the Ukrainian flag was flown over civilian buildings on Saturday, showed Ukraine was capable of dislodging Russian forces and showed the impact of Ukraine’s deployment advanced Western weapons to the conflict.
“As of 12:30 (09:30 GMT), Lyman has been completely cleared,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a short video clip on his Telegram channel. “Thank you to our army… Glory to Ukraine!”
“In the past week, the number of Ukrainian flags in the Donbas has increased. There will be more than a week,” Zelenskiy said in an earlier speech overnight, using the name for the combined Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Russia’s Defense Ministry on Saturday said it would withdraw troops from the Lyman area “in connection with the creation of a threat of encirclement”.
It did not mention Lyman in its daily update on hostilities in Ukraine on Sunday, although it did say that Russian forces destroyed seven artillery and missile depots in Ukrainian regions such as Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia. , Mykolaiv and Donetsk.
Russian forces captured Lyman from Ukraine in May and used it as a logistics and transport hub for their operations in the northern Donetsk region. Losing it was Russia’s biggest battlefield loss since Ukraine’s blitzkrieg in the northeastern region of Kharkiv last month.
The governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Gaidai, said control of Lyman could prove a “key factor” in helping Ukraine regain lost territory in neighboring Luhansk region, which Moscow has already taken over. set in early July after weeks of progress.
The importance of Lyman’s operation is due to the fact that it commands an important route across the River Siverskyi Donets, where Russia is trying to bolster its defenses, the British Ministry of Defense said.
The ministry added that Russia is likely to suffer heavy casualties during the withdrawal. Russia had between 5,000 and 5,500 troops in the city before the Ukrainian offensive, a Ukrainian military spokesman said on Saturday.
The areas that Putin claims to be annexed – the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk plus Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to the south – form a territory equal to about 18 percent of Ukraine’s total land area.
According to Russian House of Representatives spokesman Vyacheslav Volodin, the Russian parliament will consider the bills and ratification treaties on Monday to absorb the regions.
A flashy Kremlin signing ceremony with Russian-installed leaders on Friday failed to stem the tide of criticism within Russia over its handling of military activity. The UK Ministry of Defense said that would likely increase with further setbacks.
Putin’s ally, Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of Russia’s southern Chechnya region, on Saturday called for a change of strategy “from the very moment the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of nuclear weapons low productivity.” Washington says it will respond unequivocally to any use of nuclear weapons.
Other Russian hawks on Saturday criticized Russian generals and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu on social media for overseeing failures but relentlessly attacking Putin.
WE ARE “VERY HOT”
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Sunday that the US was “highly encouraged”, while NATO’s Stoltenberg said Lyman’s demise demonstrated the effectiveness of Western weapons in the conflict.
“Allies are increasing their support for Ukraine and that’s the best way to ensure that … Ukraine can actually liberate and retake the occupied territory,” Stoltenberg said in an NBC interview.
On Sunday, Pope Francis issued a firm appeal to Putin to stop “this cycle of violence and death” in Ukraine and also called on Zelenskiy to be open to any “serious peace proposals.” .
Zelenskiy said on Friday that peace talks with Russia while Putin remained president would be impossible. “We are ready for dialogue with Russia, but with another Russian president,” he said.