The latest development in Ukraine’s weeks-long counteroffensive against Moscow’s invasion came as Russia moved closer to completing the annexation of regions it has gained from Ukraine despite opposition from Kyiv and the West.
The recovery of Lyman – which Moscow’s soldiers pummeled for weeks to seize earlier this year – is the first Ukrainian military triumph in territory claimed by Moscow and vowed to defend with all means. “Lyman has been cleared as of 12:30 p.m. (0930 GMT). Thank you to our armed forces!” Zelensky stated in a social media video.
Lyman, a vital railroad junction in the eastern Donetsk area, was reportedly taken by the Ukrainian army on Saturday, prompting Moscow to announce the “drawing” of its soldiers from the town towards “more favorable lines”.
“Right now, I’m motivated and optimistic. “I witness the activities on the front lines and how foreign weapons… help us reclaim our territory,” a 33-year-old Ukrainian soldier known as “Smoke” after returning from near Lyman, told the media.
Zelensky promised to reclaim more territory in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine within the next week in a video message he gave late on Saturday. After Berlin announced on Sunday that Germany, Denmark, and Norway will provide 16 armored howitzer artillery systems starting in 2023, more foreign weaponry was headed for Ukraine. Despite the statement falling short of Kyiv’s requests for Germany’s Leopard combat tanks, the three Nato countries had agreed to jointly finance the purchase of the Slovakian Zuzana-2 weapons, according to the German defense ministry.
Experts have warned that President Vladimir Putin may use nuclear weapons to protect territory as Russian losses increase, an option put out by a Putin ally. Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of Chechen, stated on Saturday that once Russian soldiers were evacuated from Lyman, Moscow should think about deploying “low-yield nuclear bombs.”
On Friday, Putin held a spectacular Kremlin event to commemorate the takeover of four Ukrainian areas – Donetsk, Kherson, Lugansk, and Zaporizhzhia – following referendums that Kyiv and its supporters declared void. The annexation agreements signed by Putin with the leaders of the four Ukrainian areas who are supported by Moscow were acknowledged as legal by Russia’s Constitutional Court on Sunday, despite criticism from the West.
The State Duma, Russia’s lower house of parliament, will discuss the annexation treaties on Monday, according to Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin. After speaking with Zelensky on Sunday, French President Emmanuel Macron promised to work on new EU sanctions against Moscow. Josep Borrell, the head of foreign affairs for the European Union, claimed that Russia’s annexation action rendered resolving the issue “far more difficult, almost impossible.” The annexations were denounced as violations of international law by Pope Francis on Sunday, who “implored” Putin to halt the “circle of violence and death.”
The Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, can now be reached by land due to the four regions. About 20% of Ukraine is made up of the five regions combined.
Kyiv has also demanded the immediate release of the chief of the Moscow-controlled Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, accusing the Russians of “illegal arrest.” According to Ukraine’s nuclear agency Energoatom, Ihor Murashov was leaving the plant on Friday when he was arrested and “driven to an unknown destination” while blindfolded.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issued a statement in which its chairman, Rafael Grossi, expressed “grave concern” about Murashov’s incarceration. The UN agency noted that Grossi is anticipated to visit Kyiv and Moscow “next week.”