Russian forces have withdrawn from Lyman, a strategic city for its operations in the east, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday, just a day after Moscow annexation of the region that has been declared illegal by the West.
“In connection with creating an encirclement threat, the allied troops withdrew from the Krasny Liman settlement towards more advantageous lines,” the ministry said on Telegram, using the Russian name for the city of Lyman.
The pullout marks Ukraine’s most significant gain since its successful counteroffensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region last month.
Russia’s announcement comes just hours after Ukrainian forces said they had surrounded Russian troops in the town, which is in the Kramatorsk district of Donetsk.
Ukrainian forces said on Saturday they had entered Stavky, a town neighboring Lyman, according to Serhii Cherevatyi, the military spokesman for the eastern grouping of Ukrainian forces.
“The Russian group in the Lyman area is surrounded. Yampil, Novoselivka, Shandryholove, Drobysheve and Stavky settlements are liberated. Stabilization measures are ongoing there,” Cherevatyi said at a televised news conference on Saturday morning.
“[The liberation] of Lyman is important, because it is another step towards the liberation of the Ukrainian Donbas. This is an opportunity to go beyond Kreminna and Severodonetsk. So, in turn, psychologically it’s very important,” he said.
Cherevatyi said that the actions of the Ukrainian troops are setting the tone to “break the course of these hostilities”.
He added that there were “many dead and wounded”, but could not give more details.
The head of the Luhansk regional military administration, Serhiy Hayday, also revealed more details of the Lyman offensive on Saturday, suggesting that Russian forces offered to withdraw, but to no avail on Ukraine’s part.
“The occupants asked [their command] for the possibility of withdrawing, and have been rejected. Consequently, they have two options. No, actually they have three options. Try to break through, give up, or everyone will die,” Hayday said.
There are several thousand of them. Yes, about 5,000. There is no exact number yet. Five thousand is still a colossal grouping. There has never been such a large group on the fence before. All routes for ammunition supply or group withdrawal are completely blocked,” he added.
Yurii Mysiagin, a member of the Ukrainian parliament and deputy head of the parliament’s national security committee, made reference to the move to Stavky on Saturday by posting a video on Telegram showing a Ukrainian tank moving along the road with a clear sign indicating the region of Stavky. CNN was unable to independently verify the original source or date.
A video posted on social media and shared by the president’s chief of staff Volodymyr Zelensky shows two Ukrainian soldiers standing in a military vehicle taping the flag to a large banner with the word “Lyman.”
“We are unfurling the flag of our country and planting it on our land. Men only. Everything will be Ukraine”, says one of the soldiers to the camera.
On Friday, Ukrainian forces claimed control of the village of Drobysheve in the Donetsk region, the settlement neighboring Russian-occupied Lyman.
Meanwhile, on Saturday, the general director of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was detained by a Russian patrol, according to the president of the state nuclear company Energoatom.
General Director Ihor Murashov was in his car on his way to the plant when he was “arrested…taken out of the car and blindfolded and driven in an unknown direction. At the moment there is no information about the fate of him,” Energoatom’s Petro Kotin said in a statement.
“Murashov is a licensed person and has primary and sole responsibility for the nuclear and radiological safety of the Zaporizhzhya NPP,” Kotin said, adding that his detention “jeopardizes the safety of the Ukrainian operation and the plant.” Europe’s largest nuclear power plant.
Kotin called for Murashov’s release and urged the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to “take all possible immediate steps to release him urgently.”
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry “strongly” condemned the “illegal detention” of Murashov, calling it “another manifestation of state terrorism by Russia and a serious violation of international law.”
“We call on the international community, in particular the UN, the IAEA and the G7, to also take decisive action to this end,” the ministry said in a statement.
And in Kharkiv, the Regional Prosecutor’s Office said on Saturday that the bodies of 22 civilians, including 10 children, were found after Russian shelling of a car convoy near the eastern city of Kharkiv. Kupansk.
The Russian military fired on the cars on September 25 “as civilians were trying to evacuate,” it said in a Telegram post, adding that an investigation was underway.
The Security Service of Ukraine (SBU) and police had “discovered a convoy of seven cars that had been shot to death near the village of Kurylivka, Kupiansk district,” the Kharkiv Regional Prosecutor’s Office said on Friday.
The SBU confirmed on Telegram that they would be investigating a “war crime” in which at least 20 people were killed in “a brutal attack.”
CNN was unable to independently verify the allegations. There has been no official Russian response to the claims made.
The developments come as Russian President Vladimir Putin announced on Friday that Russia would take over almost a fifth of Ukraine, declaring that the millions of people who live there will be Russian citizens “forever”.
Under the annexation process, which the West regards as illegal, Moscow now recognizes four Ukrainian regions as Russian territory: Luhansk and Donetsk, home to two Russian-backed breakaway republics where fighting has been ongoing since 2014, as well as Kherson and Zaporizhzhia. , two areas in southern Ukraine that have been occupied by Russian forces since shortly after the invasion began.