- Ukraine’s recapture of Lyman deals a serious blow to Moscow
- The Chechen leader proposes the use of low-yield nuclear weapons
- Lyman is a major logistics hub in the eastern Donetsk region
- Donetsk is one of four regions that are now Russian, according to Putin
Kyiv, Oct 2 (Portal) – Ukrainian troops said they had retaken the key Lyman bastion in occupied eastern Ukraine, a stinging defeat that prompted a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin to call for the possible use of substandard nuclear weapons.
Saturday’s capture came just a day after Putin announced the annexation of nearly a fifth of Ukraine – including Donetsk, where Lyman is located – and placed the regions under Russia’s nuclear umbrella. Kyiv and the West condemned the elaborate ceremony as an illegitimate farce.
Ukrainian soldiers announced the capture in a video taken in front of the town hall building in central Lyman and posted on social media.
“Dear Ukrainians – today the Armed Forces of Ukraine … liberated and took control of the settlement of Lyman in the Donetsk region,” says one of the soldiers. At the end of the video, a group of soldiers cheer, throw down Russian flags from the roof of the building and hoist a Ukrainian flag in their place.
Hours earlier, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that it would withdraw troops from the area “in connection with the creation of an encirclement threat.”
Lyman fell in May to Russian forces using it as a logistics and transport hub for their operations in northern Donetsk region. His capture is Ukraine’s biggest gain on the battlefield since last month’s Blitz counter-offensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy promised faster successes in the Donbass, which includes the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which are largely under Russian control.
“Over the past week, the number of Ukrainian flags in Donbass has increased. There will be more in a week,” he said in an evening video address.
Ukraine’s armed forces said in a statement Sunday morning that their jets had carried out 29 strikes in the past 24 hours, destroying weapons and anti-aircraft missile systems, while ground forces hit command posts, ammunition stores and anti-aircraft missile complexes.
Russian forces launched four missiles and 16 airstrikes, and used Iranian-made “Shahed-136” drones to attack infrastructure, the Ukrainian statement said, adding that more than 30 settlements were damaged, mainly in the south and Southwest.
Portal was unable to verify either side’s claims on the battlefield
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin hailed Lyman’s arrest, saying it would create new problems for the Russian military. “We’re very encouraged by what we’re seeing right now,” Austin said at a news conference on Saturday.
Austin noted that Lyman was positioned over supply lines that Russia has been using to push its troops and materiel south and west as the Kremlin presses ahead with its more than seven-month invasion of Ukraine.
“Without these routes it will be more difficult. So it poses a kind of dilemma for the Russians going forward.”
Austin did not say if he believed Ukraine’s capture of Lyman could trigger a Russian escalation, although in recent days US officials have widely denounced Russia’s nuclear rhetoric and President Joe Biden has publicly urged Putin not to use nuclear weapons.
Ukraine’s achievements have infuriated Putin allies like Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s southern Chechen region.
“In my personal opinion, more drastic measures should be taken, up to and including the imposition of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons,” Kadyrov wrote on Telegram before Zelenskyy spoke.
Other senior officials, including former President Dmitry Medvedev, have suggested that Russia may have to resort to nuclear weapons, but Kadyrov’s call was the most urgent and clearest.
Putin said last week that he was not bluffing when he said he was ready to defend Russia’s “territorial integrity” by any means available, and made it clear on Friday that this also applies to the new regions claimed by Moscow.
Washington says it would respond decisively to any use of nuclear weapons.
Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington-based think tank, said the Russian military in its current state is almost certainly incapable of operating on a nuclear battlefield, although it has deployed its units in the trained for it in the past.
“The chaotic conglomeration of exhausted contract soldiers, hastily mobilized reservists, conscripts and mercenaries that currently make up Russia’s ground forces could not function in a nuclear environment. Any areas affected by Russian tactical nuclear weapons would therefore be impassable to the Russians, probably excluding Russian advances,” ISW said.
Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesman for Ukraine’s Eastern Armed Forces, said before the capture that Russia had 5,000 to 5,500 troops at Lyman, but the number circled may be less.
Ukraine says taking Lyman will allow it to advance into the Luhansk region, which Moscow announced it would fully capture in early July after weeks of advances.
“Lyman is important because it is the next step in the liberation of Ukraine’s Donbass,” Cherevatyi said. “It’s an opportunity to go further to Kreminna and Sievierodonetsk and it’s very important psychologically.”
Donbass has been a key focus for Russia since it launched the February 24 invasion, which Putin calls a “military special operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its smaller neighbor.
The territories claimed by Putin as Russian — the Donbass regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, and the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhia — form a strip of territory equal to about 18% of Ukraine’s total land area.
Germany said it would deliver the first of four advanced IRIS-T air defense systems to Ukraine in the coming days to repel drone strikes.
reporting by Tom Balmforth and Pavel Polityuk; Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay, Felix Light, Mark Trevelyan and David Ljunggren; writing by Tom Balmforth and Kim Coghill; Edited by Daniel Wallis and William Mallard
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