Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyi announced this Sunday that the city of Lyman, located in the Donetsk region and the gateway to neighboring Lugansk in the east of the Russian-occupied country and territory, was “completely liberated” as of noon.
“As of 12:30 p.m., Lyman is completely free. Thanks to our military, our soldiers. Glory to Ukraine,” declared the Ukrainian head of state in a video posted to Telegram.
The Ukrainian army intends to turn the capture of Lyman into “opening a road to Donbass,” spokesman for the Armed Forces of the Eastern Group of the Ukrainian Army Serhiy Chereviy announced yesterday.
Some of Putin’s troops are believed to be trapped in Lyman, a key logistics hub, after being encircled by Ukraine’s lightning-fast advance. They must either surrender or fight their way out, which would likely cost them large losses.
Last Saturday, Russian Army Spokesman General Igor Konashenkov confirmed the withdrawal of Russian forces from the city. “With the threat of encirclement, the Allied troops were withdrawn from the settlement towards more advantageous lines,” Konashenkov said at a press conference held by the TASS agency.
The city was used by the Russian army as a major transport hub. According to Ukrainian estimates, around 5,000 Russian soldiers remained surrounded there on Saturday, the largest siege of a Russian contingent since the beginning of the war.
Konashenkov has not confirmed exactly how many Russian soldiers remained in Lyman, confining himself to pointing out that the breach of the Ukrainian siege resulted in the deaths of about 200 soldiers on orders from the Kiev government, without giving further details.
The capture of Lyman is an important victory for Kyiv as it is a major railroad junction in the annexed Donetsk region.
In response to the Russian withdrawal from the city, the leader of the Russian Republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, urged Moscow to use “low-power nuclear weapons” and make decisions without considering “the Western American community.”
Following Russia’s official annexation of four Ukrainian regions on Friday, Ukraine announced it would turn to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and “urge it to deal with this case as soon as possible.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also indicated that he would “sign Ukraine’s candidacy for accelerated NATO membership,” a decision supported by the United States and Canada.
“We strongly support NATO accession for countries that want to join and can contribute their capabilities,” said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
On Friday evening, Russian President Vladimir Putin ended a day of celebrations following the annexation of four Ukrainian regions: the separatist regions of Donetsk and Lugansk, and the Russian-held regions (Saporiyia and Kherson).
“Victory will be ours!” the President shouted to the applause of thousands of supporters who had gathered in Moscow’s Red Square, waving Russian flags.
European Union and NATO leaders condemned this annexation, calling it “illegal”.
In New York, the UN Security Council considered a resolution condemning the “pseudo-annexations”, which was immediately blocked by a Russian veto.
President Joe Biden reiterated that the United States and its allies “will not be intimidated” by Putin and warned that NATO will defend “every inch” of its territory.
However, the head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, warned that this territorial liability would make an end to the war “virtually” impossible.