On Saturday, the Ukrainian military said it had “liberated” five settlements in the Donetsk region and surrounded thousands of Russian soldiers near the eastern city of Lyman.
“Russian troops in the Lyman area are encircled. The settlements of Yampil, Novoselivka, Shandryholove, Drobysheve and Stavky are liberated. Stabilization measures are being carried out there,” Serhii Cherevatyi, chairman of the eastern troop group, told a news bulletin. Ukrainian reported Pravda.
Progress comes a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared land grabbing not only for Donetsk but also for the Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions.
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Putin warned that Russia will now treat any attack on the four regions as an attack on mainland Russia, calling the Ukrainians who still reside in the war-torn regions “forever” Russian.
But Ukrainian forces have made progress in western Luhansk and northern Donetsk as they approach the strategically important city of Sievierdonetsk, which Russia has occupied since June.
Cherevatyi said there were 5,000 to 5,500 occupants in Lyman, but noted that it was difficult to estimate the number of troops in the areas surrounding the city due to the smooth movement of troops in the combat zones.
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The spokesman said some Russian troops unsuccessfully attempted to break through the Ukrainian barricade near the city while others had begun to surrender.
Taking Lyman would be a significant strategic victory for Ukraine, but Cherevatyi said the struggle to completely liberate the city is not over.
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Lyman has served as a major logistics and transportation hub for Russian forces and its operations in northern Donetsk, Reuters reported.
The safety of the city would have been the biggest battlefield victory for Ukraine as it forced Russian troops to withdraw from almost the entire Kharkiv region in a major counter-offensive last month.