Ukrainian troops surround Lyman, trapping Russian troops, officials say

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KYIV — Less than 24 hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin proudly proclaimed the illegal annexation of Ukraine’s Donetsk region, thousands of his troops now appear to be trapped there.

Ukrainian forces have surrounded Lyman, a transportation hub in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine, Serhiy Cherevaty, a spokesperson for the Ukrainian Armed Forces, told The Washington Post on Saturday. With Russian forces surrounded, Ukrainian soldiers are now expected to restore full control of Lyman within the next few days.

Lyman’s powerful counterattack and seemingly imminent takeover will be embarrassing for Moscow, a day after claiming swaths of eastern Ukraine – in the face of widespread international condemnation. Ukrainian forces advanced on the city overnight even as Russia held a grand ceremony and pop concert in Moscow’s Red Square to celebrate the annexation.

Cherevaty said Ukrainian troops had retaken four villages near Lyman in addition to surrounding the town, which is a key supply center west of Ukraine’s Donbass region. Donetsk pro-Kremlin separatist leader Denis Pushilin admitted on Friday that the city was “half surrounded”, calling Kyiv’s advances “very unpleasant news”, which threatened to “overshadow” annexation celebrations.

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Unverified social networks video footage released by the head of the Ukrainian president’s office on Saturday appeared to show Ukrainian troops staging their own celebrations, raising the blue and yellow flag near the outskirts of the city. Another video has emerged showing troops stomping on a Russian flag in the city.

Pro-Russian military bloggers also seemed to acknowledge defeat in the city. A prominent anonymous Russian military blogger known as Rybar said on Saturday that exit routes from the city were limited for Russian fighters, and “at this stage it is not possible to reverse the trend.”

Meanwhile, a pro-Kremlin Telegram channel closely linked to the Wagner mercenary group reported that Russian troops in Lyman were “completely surrounded” and “unprecedented” measures were underway to facilitate their release.” that it had been impossible to withdraw the troops from the city earlier because of the annexation ceremony and Putin’s speech on Friday.

The battle presents a test for Putin, who has vowed to treat attacks in annexed regions as attacks on Russia. Although the loss of Lyman presents “serious damage to the reputation of the Russian Federation“, wrote Rybar, the fact that the accession treaties have not yet been finally approved and ratified by the Russian parliament leaves the situation blurry.

Thousands of Russian soldiers are in the city, according to the Luhansk regional governor, Serhiy Haidai, who said that “almost all means of leaving and transporting ammunition to the Russians” were blocked. The Washington Post could not independently verify its claims. Haidai bluntly added that the trapped Russian troops had three options: try to escape, surrender or risk being killed.

The city, which was home to more than 20,000 people in the Donetsk region before the war, is one of four territories Russia allegedly illegally absorbed this week. A victory would mark Ukraine’s most significant success in the Donbass region since Russia concentrated the bulk of its forces there in the spring. Haidai added that the nearby town of Kreminna east of Lyman in the Luhansk region would be Ukraine’s next military target.

Overnight, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the nation that troops were making “substantial results” in the east and named Lyman as a key example, thanking the fighters there. “These are steps that mean a lot to us,” he added in an evening address.

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Ukrainian military spokesman Cherevaty told the Post earlier this week that “almost all logistics routes” to the Lyman region were under Ukrainian control.

This tactic, known as kettling, involves troops surrounding a town and leaving occupied forces with few exit strategies other than surrender. Towns and villages in the eastern Donbass region tend to have few roads leading in and out, leaving invading troops unfamiliar with the region particularly vulnerable as they are unlikely to know any other exit routes.

A member of the Ukrainian military shared a video with The Post that appeared to show a destroyed column of Russian vehicles that may have been trying to evade Lyman after Ukrainian forces had already closed in. In the video, bodies of Russian soldiers lie dead on the side of the road.

Despite the patriotic pageantry at Friday’s grand treaty-signing ceremony that purported to annex parts of Ukraine’s Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions to Russia, Putin faces criticism at home for his military mobilization, with thousands of people rushing to the borders and fleeing to avoid being called to war. It has also been criticized for losing ground in northern Ukraine.

Oleg Tsarov, a Ukrainian separatist leader, Noted on Twitter that the situation in Lyman is “a poor backdrop” for annexation celebrations. The loss of Lyman will also likely reinforce the idea that the annexations may not reflect the reality on the ground, with only a tenuous military grip on them, as Russian forces do not fully control any of the four regions.

Nonetheless, Putin made it clear in his scathing speech on Friday that he intended the annexed lands and populations to be part of Russia “forever”.

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He has previously said any attack on annexed territories would be considered an attack on Russia and threatened ‘to use all means at our disposal’ to defend them, raising the stakes of a possible use of nuclear weapons. . On Friday, he made an ominous reference to the US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan in 1945, calling it a “precedent” for the use of devastating weapons.

Meanwhile in Ukraine, an adviser to President Zelensky, Mykhailo Podolyak, compared the encirclement of Lyman to the encirclement of the city of Ilovaisk in Donetsk by Russian forces in 2014. Then, “our guys agreed to surrender unarmed. But Russia broke its word. The column was shot down,” he said. wrote on Twitter. The situation was reversed today, with Russian forces expected to “request an exit from Lyman”, he added.

Kostiantyn Khudov in Kyiv contributed to this report. Suliman reported from London. Dixon reported from Riga.

War in Ukraine: what you need to know

The last: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed decrees to annex four occupied regions of Ukraine, following referendums held that have been widely denounced as illegal. Follow our live updates here.

The answer: The Biden administration on Friday announced a new round of sanctions against Russia, in response to the annexations, targeting government officials and their family members, Russian and Belarusian military officials and defense procurement networks. President Volodymyr Zelensky also said on Friday that Ukraine was seeking an “accelerated ascent” into NATO, in apparent response to annexations.

In Russia: Putin declared a military mobilization on September 21 to call up up to 300,000 reservists in a dramatic attempt to reverse the setbacks of his war on Ukraine. The announcement led to an exodus of over 180,000 people, mostly men subject to service, and further protests and other acts of defiance against the war.

The fight: Ukraine launched a successful counter-offensive that forced a large Russian retreat into the northeast Kharkiv region in early September as troops fled towns and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned large quantities of military equipment.

Pictures: Washington Post photographers have been in the field since the war began – here are some of their most powerful works.

How you can help: Here’s how those in the United States can support the people of Ukraine as well as what people around the world have donated.

Read our full coverage of the Russia–Ukraine War. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video.


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