Ukraine celebrates retaking main city, Putin ally raises nuclear fears

  • Ukraine’s restoration of Lyman control is a major setback for Moscow
  • Chechen leader suggests using low-yield nuclear weapon
  • Liman is a major logistics center in the eastern Donetsk region
  • Donetsk is one of four regions that Putin says are now Russian

Kyiv (Reuters) – Ukrainian forces said they have retaken the main Lyman stronghold in occupied eastern Ukraine, in a stinging defeat that prompted a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin to call for the possible use of low-grade nuclear weapons.

Saturday’s seizure came just a day after Putin announced the annexation of nearly a fifth of Ukraine – including Donetsk, where the Lyman is located – and placing the regions under Russia’s nuclear umbrella. Kyiv and the West condemned the ornate celebration as an illegal farce.

Ukrainian soldiers announced their arrest in a video clip recorded outside the city council building in the center of Lyman and posted on social media.

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“Dear Ukrainians – today the Ukrainian armed forces … liberated and took control of the Lyman settlement in the Donetsk region,” said one of the soldiers. At the end of the video, a group of soldiers chant and throw Russian flags from the rooftop and raise the Ukrainian flag in their place.

The Russian Defense Ministry had announced hours earlier that it would withdraw troops from the area “in connection with creating a threat of encirclement.”

In May, Lyman fell to Russian forces, who used it as a logistics and transportation hub for their operations in the north of the Donetsk region. Its capture is Ukraine’s biggest battlefield gain since a lightning counterattack in the northeastern Kharkiv region last month.

President Volodymyr Zelensky promised more rapid successes in the Donbass region, which covers the largely Russian-controlled Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

“Over the past week, the number of Ukrainian flags has increased in the Donbass. There will be more flags in the week,” he said in an evening video address.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a statement, Sunday morning, that its planes carried out 29 raids during the past 24 hours, destroying anti-aircraft weapons and missile systems, while the ground forces targeted command posts, depots containing ammunition and anti-aircraft missile complexes. .

The Ukrainian statement said that the Russian forces launched four missiles and 16 air strikes and used Iranian-made Shahed-136 drones to attack the infrastructure, adding that more than 30 settlements were damaged mainly in the south and south.

Reuters was unable to verify either side’s assertions on the battlefield

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin welcomed Lyman’s arrest, saying it would create new problems for the Russian military. “We are very encouraged by what we see now,” Austin told a news conference on Saturday.

Austin noted that Lyman was stationed across supply lines that Russia used to push its forces and materiel south and west, as the Kremlin pressured the invasion of Ukraine, which lasted for more than seven months.

“Without these methods, it would be much more difficult. So it’s kind of a dilemma for the Russians going forward.”

Austin did not say whether he thought Ukraine’s arrest of Lyman might lead to a Russian escalation, although US officials have broadly denounced Russia’s nuclear rhetoric in recent days and President Joe Biden has publicly urged Putin not to use nuclear weapons.

Ukraine’s successes infuriated Putin’s allies such as Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Russia’s southern Chechnya region.

“In my personal opinion, tougher measures should be taken, even the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons,” Kadyrov wrote in Telegram before Zelensky’s speech.

Other senior officials, including former President Dmitry Medvedev, suggested that Russia might need to resort to nuclear weapons, but Kadyrov’s call was the most urgent and outspoken.

Putin said last week that he was not cheating when he said he was ready to defend Russia’s “territorial integrity” with all available means, and made clear on Friday that this extends to the new territories claimed by Moscow.

Washington says it will 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 incapable of operating on a nuclear battlefield even though it has historically trained its units to do so.

“The chaotic conglomeration of exhausted contract soldiers, and the rapid mobilization of reservists, conscripts, and mercenaries that currently make up the Russian ground forces cannot operate in a nuclear environment. Any areas affected by Russian tactical nuclear weapons would therefore be impassable for the Russians, and this would likely rule out progress Russia “.

logistical hub

Serhiy Chervati, a spokesman for the eastern forces of Ukraine, said before the arrest of the Russian forces that Russia had between 5,000 and 5,500 soldiers in Lyman, but the encircled number could be less.

Ukraine says capturing Lyman would allow it to advance into the Luhansk region, which Moscow declared fully occupied in early July after weeks of grinding advances.

“Liman is important because it is the next step towards the liberation of Ukraine’s Donbass,” Chervati said. “It’s an opportunity to go further to Kreminna and Sievierodonetsk, and it is psychologically significant.”

The Donbass region has been a big focus for Russia since it launched a recent invasion on February 24, which Putin called a “special military operation” to disarm and “disarm” its smaller neighbour.

The regions that Putin claimed were Russian – the Donbass regions of Donetsk, Luhansk, the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhzhya – constitute a patch of land equal to about 18% of the total Ukrainian land area.

Germany said it will deliver the first four advanced IRIS-T air defense systems to Ukraine in the coming days to help fend off drone attacks.

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(Reporting by Tom Palmforth and Pavel Politiuk) Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay, Felix Light, Mark Trevelyan and David Leungren. writing by Tom Palmforth and Kim Coogill; Editing by Daniel Wallis and William Mallard

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