On Saturday, Ukrainian forces reached the entrance of the eastern bastion of Lyman after encircling thousands of Russian troops. Kyiv said that in a fightback against the Kremlin a day before it proclaimed a swathe of territory to become a part of Russia.
The capture of Lyman would be a major blow for Russia after Russian President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the annexation of the Donetsk region, as well as three other regions, at a ceremony on Friday in Moscow condemned by the West and Kyiv as a farce. Russia had 5,000 to 5,500 troops at Lyman but the number of encircled troops could be lesser due to the casualties, said a spokesperson for Ukraine’s eastern forces.
The last operational update on Russia was on Friday evening. On Saturday, a series of congratulatory messages, including one from the Russian President, to mark an army holiday, Ground Forces Day was published by the ministry’s Telegram channel.
In the north of the Donetsk region, Lyman had been used as a logistics and transport hub for its operations by Russia. Its fall would be the biggest battlefield win for Ukraine since last month’s lightning counteroffensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region.
The capture of Lyman would allow Kyiv to advance and move into the Luhansk region whose full control was announced by Moscow at the beginning of July after weeks of slow advances, said the Ukrainian military spokesperson.
Donetsk and Luhansk regions together mark the wider Donbas region which has been a major focus point for Russia after the start of the invasion by Moscow on Feb 24.
The operation around Lyman is still going on and Russian troops are repeatedly being unsuccessful in escaping the encirclement, Cherevatyi said.
Russian forces had requested a safe exit out of the encirclement. However, Ukraine rejected the request, said Ukraine’s exiled governor of Luhansk.
In Friday’s ceremony, Putin proclaimed the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to be a part of Russia’s land- which is equal to about 18% of the Ukrainian total surface area.
Russia’s move was regarded as illegal by Ukraine and its Western allies. Kyiv promised to keep regaining its own land from the Russian forces and said as long as Putin is president there is no scope for peace talks.