The Russian military retreated from the eastern city of Lymon as Ukrainian forces prepared to launch a counteroffensive. Media reports say that amid heavy fighting, the Russian forces withdrew from the eastern city of Lyman in the Donetsk region on Saturday.
“They got on their tanks and drove out,” said one resident, riding her bicycle back to the bomb shelter, where she still spends the nights with 15 others.
A Ukrainian army spokesman asked to respond to CNN’s reporting and denied Russians had withdrawn two days before, saying there had been fighting in the area as recently as Saturday.
The Russian pullout from the city of Lyman came after a large number of troops were encircled by the Ukrainian advance. “Ukrainian forces on Saturday encircled some 5,000 Russian troops in the eastern town of Lyman, a part of Ukraine illegally annexed by Moscow on Friday,” the German TV channel DW News reported earlier.
There are no signs of Russian troops on Sunday – few damaged Russian tanks, Russian dead, or Russian prisoners. Members of the Ukrainian National Guard from the Dnipro-1 unit hover in small numbers on some streets, CNN reports from the scene.
Ukrainian officials and troops repeatedly spoke of large numbers of Moscow’s better units trapped there. Yet on Sunday, there were few signs of encirclement to be seen.
It’s very hard to know what’s going on. Everyone lies.
Lymon is a small area:
Some officials said Russian corpses had already been cleared away and prisoners removed. But locals offered another explanation: Russian forces had left the city on Friday orderly.
Sergiy Cherevatiy of the Eastern Group of Armed Forces of Ukraine said Russian troops had formed convoys to break through the de facto encirclement of the city. He said some succeeded in getting out while others had been hit.
DW News explained the importance of Lyman: “The region served as a logistics and transport hub for Russian military operations in the north of the Donetsk region. Should Ukrainian forces gain total control of Lyman, it would allow them to start further advances into the Luhansk region, which Russia has occupied since July and also claimed a part of its territory.”
The Russian Defense Ministry on Saturday announced the withdrawal of Russian troops from Lyman to “more advantageous lines” to avoid the “threat of encirclement” despite Putin having announced just a day earlier that Russia would illegally annex four regions of Ukraine, including Donetsk, into Russia.
The timing of the withdrawal is strange. Putin even held a large victory rally for the annexation.
WORLD WAR III?
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba on Saturday that Washington would help Ukraine “regain control of its territory.”
Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke by phone today [Saturday] with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Ukraine’s continued defense of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. They discussed Moscow’s latest illegal and illegitimate efforts to change Ukraine’s borders by force, as well as mounting atrocities committed by Russia’s forces against the people of Ukraine, including war crimes and human rights abuses. The Secretary reiterated President Biden’s message that the United States will always honor Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and that we will continue to support Ukraine’s efforts to regain control of its territory by strengthening its hand militarily and diplomatically, according to a readout of the call provided by State Department spokesman Ned Price.
Russia said the readout showed Blinken threatened to use force if necessary, but those words are not on the White House website.