Putin, Russia and Ukraine war news: live updates

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

RIVNE, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian troops inched closer to retaking the strategic eastern town of Lyman on Saturday, just a day after President Vladimir V. Putin’s internationally derided declaration that the region where it is located and other three in Ukraine were now part of Russia.

the battle For Lyman, a city in Donetsk province with a pre-war population of 20,000, quickly became an unwelcome sideshow for the Kremlin after it illegally declared its annexation from fringes of Ukraine and Kyiv impressive victories in the northeast of the country last month.

The city’s position on the banks of the Siversky Donets River means that its capture by Ukrainian forces would give them a strategic foothold for further advances to the east. It would also put additional pressure on the Kremlin, which has been facing domestic criticism for its battlefield setbacks and drafting hundreds of thousands of men to fight in Ukraine.

Much remains to be clarified about the situation unfolding on the ground in Lyman, as Ukrainian commanders are prohibited from discussing the ongoing battle with the media. But Ukrainian and pro-Russian officials, pro-Russian social media accounts and unverified photos show that Ukraine’s forces clearly have the upper hand.

Denis Pushilin, the head of Russia’s proxy administration in the Donetsk People’s Republic, said on Friday that the city was “half surrounded.”

“This is very unpleasant news, but we must take a serious look at the situation and draw conclusions from our mistakes,” he said. Pushilin also said on Telegram that Russia had lost control of Yampil and Dobryshev, towns to the north and east of Lyman.

On Friday night, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine thanked the military units responsible for seizing Yampil and hinted at progress in Lyman.

“We have substantial results in the east of our country,” Zelensky said. “There is already enough public information about this. Everyone has heard what is happening in Lyman, Donetsk region.”

Pro-Russian bloggers reported with growing alarm on Saturday that his team was facing a painful defeat. A popular account in the Telegram messaging application said that Lyman was “practically surrounded by the enemy.” Other foretold that the city “would be completely lost in the next 1 to 3 days.” and a third said that the sources “do not rule out the abandonment” of Lyman by the Russian troops to avoid the encirclement.

For Russia, the new setback came at a particularly sensitive time: less than 24 hours after Putin delivered his fiercest speech on the war on Friday, one that cast Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as part of an existential conflict. with the West.

Russia had to prevent Ukraine from taking Lyman as “a matter of principle”, a nationalist commentator, Yegor Kholmogorov, wrote. “Any withdrawal will seem like a bad omen in the context of yesterday’s events in Moscow.”

Ukrainian officials believe that there are more than 1,000 Russian troops defending Lyman, and the fall of the two villages to the east and west of Lyman means that Ukrainian forces are close to directly threatening Russian supply routes leading out of the town into the country. East.

If the Russian forces do not withdraw and the routes out of Lyman are cut off, the Ukrainian forces will have successfully surrounded the city.

For the Kremlin, having Russian troops trapped inside Lyman would be a public relations nightmare. And for the Ukrainians, it would be a form of revenge for the encirclement and defeat of their troops in the southern city of Mariupol earlier in the war.

Lyman, who fell to the russians in May, it serves as a rail hub that empties into the Donbas, the mineral-rich region made up of Donetsk and neighboring Luhansk province that has long been the focus of Putin’s war aims.

Mark Hernandez, Josh Headline, and Bilefsky Y Matthew Mpoke Bigg contributed report.

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