On Saturday, Russia said its troops had abandoned the Lyman fortress in eastern Ukraine for fear of encirclement and the Chechen leader, a close ally of the Kremlin, said Moscow should consider using arms low-yield nuclear gas in response.
The town’s fall is a major setback for Moscow after President Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of the Donetsk region, along with three other regions, at a ceremony on Friday that was denounced by Kyiv and the West as a farce.
The Russian Defense Ministry said: “Allied forces withdrew from the settlement … Lyman to more advantageous lines because it created the risk of encirclement,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.
The statement ended hours of official silence from Moscow after Kyiv first said it had surrounded thousands of Russian troops in the area and then their forces were inside the town of Lyman.
Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen leader who describes himself as a follower of President Putin, said he could not keep quiet after Moscow abandoned territory the Kremlin claims as part of Russia just a day earlier. .
“In my personal opinion, more drastic measures need to be taken, right from the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons,” he said. Kadyrov wrote on Telegram in a post where he mocked a Russian. shared.
The statement of the Russian Ministry of Defense did not mention that the Russian army was besieged.
Serhii Cherevatyi, a spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern forces, said a few hours earlier, “The Russian group in the Lyman area is under siege.
He said that Russia has between 5,000 and 5,500 troops at Lyman but the number of troops under siege could be lower because of casualties.
“We were in Lyman, but there were still battles,” the spokesman said on television.
Two grinning Ukrainian soldiers stick a yellow and blue national flag on a welcome sign at the entrance to the town in the northern Donetsk region, a video posted by the president’s chief of staff shows.
“October 1. We are planting our state flag and setting it on our land. Lyman will be Ukraine,” said one of the soldiers standing on the bonnet of a military vehicle. .
It is not possible to independently confirm the battlefield claims of either side.
Russia has used Lyman as a logistics and transport hub for its operations in the northern Donetsk region. Its demise would be Ukraine’s biggest battlefield gain since a blitzkrieg counterattack in the northeastern region of Kharkiv last month.
A Ukrainian military spokesman said capturing Lyman would allow Kyiv to enter the Luhansk region, which Moscow announced full capture in early July after weeks of slowness.
“Lyman is very important because it is the next step to liberate the Donbass of Ukraine. It is an opportunity to go further to Kreminna and Sievierodonetsk, and it is very important psychologically,” he said.
The Donetsk and Luhansk regions together make up the larger Donbas region, which has been Russia’s main focus since the start of Moscow’s invasion on February 24 in what it calls “operations.” special military” to demilitarize the neighboring country.
Vladimir Putin declared the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia as Russian land during Friday’s ceremony – a territory that makes up about 18 percent of Ukraine’s total land area.
Ukraine and its Western allies consider Russia’s move illegal. Kyiv vowed to continue to liberate the lands of Russian forces and said it would not hold peace talks with Moscow while Vladimir Putin remained president.
Retired US General Ben Hodges, a former commander of US troops in Europe, said a Russian defeat in Lyman following Putin’s announcement would be a major political and military embarrassment for the leader. Russia.
“This makes clear that his request is illegal and cannot be enforced,” he said.
It remains to be seen how Ukrainian commanders will exploit the operation, he said, adding that it would likely further erode the morale of Moscow’s troops holding other Ukrainian territories.
Cherevatyi said the operation around Lyman is still underway and that the Russian military is making unsuccessful attempts to break out of the encirclement.
“Some are surrendering, they are killed and wounded a lot, but the operation is not over yet,” he said.
The Ukrainian governor-in-exile, Luhansk, said that Russian forces had asked for a safe break out of the encirclement, but Ukraine refused the request.
Ukraine’s General Staff told Reuters it had no such information.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from an aggregated feed.)