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Ukraine eyes more gains after Lyman

Ukraine’s recapture of Lyman – particularly stinging for Russia, after their annexation of four regions of the country – may be a sign of things to come.

October 3, 2022
By Tom Balmforth and Pavel Polityuk
3 October 2022

Ukraine has claimed full control of the eastern logistics hub of Lyman, its most significant battlefield gain from Russia in weeks, providing a potential staging post for further attacks to the east while heaping further pressure on the Kremlin.

The stinging setback for Russian President Vladimir Putin was delivered after he proclaimed the annexation of four regions covering nearly a fifth of Ukraine on Friday, an area that includes Lyman. Kyiv and the West have condemned the proclamation as an illegitimate farce.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the capture of the town, where Ukrainian flags were raised over civic buildings on Saturday, demonstrated that Ukraine is capable of dislodging Russian forces and showed the impact Ukraine’s deployment of advanced Western weapons was having on the conflict.

“Lyman is fully cleared,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a short video clip on his Telegram channel. “Thank you to our troops … Glory to Ukraine!”

“Over the past week, the number of Ukrainian flags in Donbas has increased. There will be even more in a week’s time,” Zelenskiy said in an earlier address, using the name for the combined Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

Russia’s defence ministry said on Saturday that it was pulling troops out of the Lyman area “in connection with the creation of a threat of encirclement”.

It did not mention Lyman in its daily update on fighting in Ukraine on Sunday, although it said Russian forces had destroyed seven artillery and missile depots in the Ukrainian regions of Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv and Donetsk.

The Ukrainian military said in its evening statement on Sunday that its forces had repelled Russian advances in several areas – particularly in Donetsk region near Bakhmut and Spirne, just inside Donetsk region near Lysychansk, a major centre in neighbouring Luhansk region.

Russian forces captured Lyman from Ukraine in May and had used it as a logistics and transport hub for its operations in the north of the Donetsk region. Its recapture by Ukrainian troops is Russia’s largest battlefield loss since Ukraine’s lightning counteroffensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region in September.

Control over Lyman could prove a “key factor” in helping Ukraine reclaim lost territory in the neighbouring Luhansk region, whose full capture Moscow announced in early July after weeks of grinding advances, Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai said.

Lyman’s operational importance was due to its command over a road crossing over the Siverskyi Donets River, behind which Russia has been attempting to consolidate its defences, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said.

Russia likely experienced heavy casualties during the withdrawal, the ministry added. Russia had 5000 to 5500 troops in the town before the Ukrainian attack, a Ukrainian military spokesman said on Saturday.

The United States was “very encouraged” by Ukrainian gains, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Sunday, while NATO’s Stoltenberg said the fall of Lyman demonstrated the effectiveness of Western weapons in the conflict.

“Allies are stepping up their support to Ukraine and that is the best way to ensure that … Ukraine is actually able to liberate and retake occupied territory,” Stoltenberg said in an NBC interview.

Pope Francis on Sunday made an impassioned appeal to Putin to stop “this spiral of violence and death” in Ukraine and also to call on Zelenskiy to be open to any “serious peace proposal”.

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