Ukraine said Sunday it has taken full control of Lyman, the eastern logistics hub that was part of the territory Russian President Vladimir Putin had illegally claimed last week was now part of Russia.
“Lyman is fully cleared,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy declared in a short video clip on his Telegram channel.
Russia did not comment Sunday on the fate of Lyman but said Saturday that its troops were retreating from the area because it feared Ukrainian forces were about to encircle them. Russia had captured Lyman in May and had used it as a logistics and transportation hub for its operations in the north of the Donetsk region.
Russia’s loss of Lyman was its biggest battlefield defeat since Ukrainian forces last month swept through the Kharkiv region in northeastern Ukraine, pushing Russian forces back toward their border.
David Petraeus, a former U.S. Central Intelligence Agency director, told ABC’s “This Week” show, that Putin is “going to continue to lose on the battlefield.” The only question, he said, is when larger Russian units start to surrender.
Petraeus said that even Putin’s threatened use of tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine “won’t change this.”
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio told CNN’s “State of the Union” show, “There really is no way for Russia to win this war.” But Rubio said he worries that Putin could attack Western supply depots helping Ukraine in such NATO countries as Poland that could lead to a wider conflict, assuming Western allies respond to any attack on a fellow NATO member.
Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region that neighbors Donetsk, said control over Lyman could give Ukraine help in reclaiming lost territory in his region, which Moscow announced in early July that it had captured.
The Lyman takeover by Ukraine came swiftly despite Putin’s declaration, in an elaborate ceremony at the Kremlin Friday, that his government was proclaiming to annex four regions of Ukraine, about a fifth of the land territory of its neighbor, an independent country since 1991 that was once part of the Soviet Union.
Putin’s action was illegal under international law and widely condemned by Ukraine, along with the U.S. and its Western allies that have been supplying armaments to the Kyiv government in its seven-month fight against Moscow’s invasion.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update posted on Twitter Sunday that the Russian force that retreated from Lyman “probably experienced heavy casualties as it withdrew along the only road out of the town still in Russian hands.”
The update also said: “The withdrawal has led to a further wave of public criticism of Russia’s military leadership by senior officials. . . Further losses of territory in illegally occupied territories will almost certainly lead to an intensification of this public criticism and increase the pressure on senior commanders.”
Video posted on social media Saturday showed Ukrainian soldiers on the outskirts of the city waving a flag, with one solider saying, “Lyman will be Ukraine.” Since May, its railroad hub has been used by Russia as a key logistical area to support thousands of its soldiers fighting in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian officials said Russian forces killed at least 20 people, including 10 children, in an attack on a convoy carrying people fleeing northeastern Ukraine. The report could not be independently verified.
The reported attack follows a missile strike on another civilian convoy in the Zaporizhzhia province Friday in which 30 people were killed and scores were wounded.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Saturday the missile used in Friday’s attack “was likely a Russian long-range air defense missile being used in a ground attack role.”
The ministry said in an intelligence report posted on Twitter the use of the “high-value resource” in the ground attack near Zaporizhzhia “has almost certainly been driven by overall munitions shortages, particularly longer-range precision missiles.”