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Russian troops withdraw from Ukrainian town of Lyman

October 1, 2022

Russia's military has acknowledged its withdrawal from the strategically important town of Lyman in Donetsk. The town is in the areas Vladimir Putin unilaterally declared as annexed Russian territory.

Ukraine Region Donezk | Satellitenbild Zerstörung in Lyman
Lyman's population is only around 20,000 but the town served as a logistics and transport hub for Russian operationsImage: Maxar Technologies/REUTERS

Russia said on Saturday that it had withdrawn its forces from the Ukrainian town of Lyman, a frontline hub in the Donetsk region that Kyiv's troops reported encircling.

The pullback is a major upset for President Vladimir Putin, who proclaimed the annexation of the Donetsk region, along with three other regions just a day earlier

What has Moscow said about the withdrawal?

"In connection with the creation of a threat of encirclement, allied troops were withdrawn from the settlement of Krasny Liman to more advantageous lines," the Russian Defense Ministry said, using the Russian name for the town.

The ministry claimed that the Russian troops had inflicted considerable damage on Ukrainian forces prior to them being withdrawn, outnumbered. But it offered no evidence for this.

Lyman has served as a major logistics and transport hub for Russia's occupying forces.

Ukraine claims control of Lyman

Ukrainian officials had reported earlier on Saturday that Lyman was first encircled and later back in Ukrainian hands.

Ukraine's air force said that it had moved into the town and after Ukraine's president's chief of staff posted photos of a Ukrainian flag being hoisted on the outskirts.

Earlier on Saturday, the Ukrainian governor of the neighboring Luhansk region, Serhiy Hayday, had said that almost 5,000 Russian troops in Lyman were encircled with no means of escape, a claim that could not be verified.

Hayday said that after Lyman, his region of Luhansk would be next in Kyiv's military crosshairs. 

On Friday, Putin declared several Ukrainian regions to be Russian following so-called referendums on independence.

As well as Donetsk, he said Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia were now "four new regions" of Russia.

Putin this week heightened his threats of nuclear force during a speech announcing the illegal annexation of the four Ukrainian regions.

Using the most aggressive, anti-Western rhetoric to date, he framed Ukraine's recent territorial gains as part of a US-orchestrated effort to destroy Russia.

Last month, Kyiv's forces retook vast swathes of territory, pushing Russian forces out of the Kharkiv area, allowing them to move east across the Oskil River toward Lyman and other strategic points.

Putin ally calls for nuclear response

Responding to the Russian withdrawal from Lyman, Ramzan Kadyrov, the leader of Chechnya who describes himself as a footsoldier of Putin, ratcheted up the rhetoric, calling for the nuclear option to be considered.

"In my personal opinion, more drastic measures should be taken, right up to the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons," Kadyrov wrote on Telegram.

msh/mm (AFP, dpa, Reuters)