U.S. celebrates "significant" wins in Ukraine, as criticism in Russia grows
The recapture by Ukrainian troops of a key strategic city in the Donetsk region prompted celebration by Ukraine and its allies, and heightened internal criticism within Russia.
Driving the news: Russia announced on Saturday that it was withdrawing troops from the city of Lyman as Ukrainian forces advanced nearer.
- The move came one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin formally annexed four regions of Ukraine — including Donetsk — proclaiming them to now be part of Russia.
- President Biden denounced Russia's "fraudulent" attempt to annex Ukrainian territory in a statement Friday, saying that "Russia is violating international law, trampling on the United Nations Charter, and showing its contempt for peaceful nations everywhere."
- Ukraine's Defense Ministry confirmed via twitter Sunday morning that Lyman "is fully cleared of the Russian occupiers."
The big picture: The loss of Lyman is a huge blow to Russian forces, who have used the city as a crucial logistics and rail hub in the Donetsk.
- "Operationally, Lyman is important because it commands a key road crossing over the Siversky Donets River, behind which Russia has been attempting to consolidate its defenses," the U.K. Defense Ministry wrote in an intelligence update on Sunday.
- For Ukrainian forces, the retaking of the city provides them with a foothold to advance further east.
- "Lyman is important because it is the next step towards the liberation of the Ukrainian Donbas. It is an opportunity to go further to Kreminna and Sievierodonetsk, and it is psychologically very important," Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for Ukraine's eastern forces, said Saturday, per Reuters.
What they're saying: Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hailed the recapture of Lyman as "significant," adding that "we're very encouraged by what we're seeing right now," Reuters reported.
- Austin noted that Lyman had provided Russia with key supply lines to send troops and materials further south and west into Ukrainian territory.
- "Without those routes, it will be more difficult. So it presents a sort of a dilemma for the Russians going forward," he added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the placement of a Ukrainian flag in Lyman in an address on Saturday, adding that the city bared "no trace of any pseudo-referendum there."
- "During this week, there were more Ukrainian flags in Donbas. It will be even more in a week," Zelensky added.
- "What then is a pseudo-referendum? Are there two Donetsk regions? Two villages of Yampil, Donetsk region? Are there two villages of Torske?" Zelensky added.
- Ukrainian forces recaptured the village of Yampil, southeast of Lyman earlier this week. Zelensky's comment indicated that Ukrainian forces had also recaptured Torske, which is located on the main road out of Lyman to the east, per Reuters.
The other side: Russia's withdrawal from Lyman prompted a "further wave of public criticism of Russia’s military leadership by senior officials," the U.K. intelligence update noted.
- Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who criticized "mistakes" by Russia's military earlier this month, offered a fresh round of criticism on Saturday.
- "How can you command units properly when you are 150km away? We abandoned several towns and a large amount of territory because we didn’t have elementary military logistics,” Kadyrov in a post on Telegram, the Financial Times reported.
- Kadyrov added that "more drastic measures" were needed, including the use of low-yield nuclear weapons.