By Tom Balmforth and Pavel Polityuk
KYIV (Reuters) -Ukrainian forces entered the jap stronghold of Lyman on Saturday after encircling 1000’s of Russian troops, Kyiv mentioned, in a battlefield rebuttal to the Kremlin a day after it proclaimed a swathe of its territory a part of Russia.
The seize of Lyman can be a serious setback for Moscow after President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the annexation of the Donetsk area, together with three different areas, at a ceremony on Friday that was condemned by Kyiv and the West as a farce.
“We’re already in Lyman, however there are battles,” Serhii Cherevatyi, spokesperson for Ukraine’s jap forces, mentioned.
Two grinning Ukrainian troopers taped the yellow-and-blue nationwide flag on to the “Lyman” welcome signal on the city’s entrance in Donetsk area’s north, a video posted by the president’s chief of workers confirmed.
“Oct. 1. We’re unfurling our state flag and establishing it on our land. Lyman can be Ukraine,” one of many troopers mentioned, standing on the bonnet of a navy automobile.
Russia had 5,000 to five,500 troops at Lyman however the variety of encircled troops may very well be decrease due to casualties, Cherevatyi mentioned.
“The Russian grouping within the space of Lyman is surrounded,” the spokesperson, he mentioned on tv.
The Russian Defence Ministry didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
Russia’s final operational replace was on Friday night. On Saturday, the ministry’s Telegram channel printed a collection of congratulatory messages, together with one from Putin, to mark a military vacation, Floor Forces Day.
Russian navy bloggers mentioned the lack of the city can be a critical setback and that it was apparent Moscow had taken the choice to desert the city and pull out its forces.
Neither facet’s battlefield assertions may very well be independently verified.
Russia has used Lyman as a logistics and transport hub for its operations within the north of the Donetsk area. Its fall can be Ukraine’s largest battlefield achieve since a lightning counteroffensive within the northeastern Kharkiv area final month.
The Ukrainian navy spokesperson mentioned the seize of Lyman would enable Kyiv to advance into the Luhansk area, whose full seize Moscow introduced originally of July after weeks of sluggish, grinding advances.
“Lyman is essential as a result of it’s the subsequent step in the direction of the liberation of the Ukrainian Donbas. It is a chance to go additional to Kreminna and Sievierodonetsk, and it’s psychologically essential,” he mentioned.
Donetsk and Luhansk areas collectively make up the broader Donbas area that has been a serious focus for Russia since quickly after the beginning of Moscow’s invasion on Feb. 24 in what it known as a “particular navy operation” to demilitarise its neighbour.
Putin proclaimed the Donbas areas of Donetsk and Luhansk and the southern areas of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia to be Russian land in Friday’s ceremony – a swathe of territory equal to about 18% of Ukraine’s whole floor land space.
Ukraine and its Western allies branded Russia’s transfer as unlawful. Kyiv vowed to proceed liberating its land of Russian forces and mentioned it could not maintain peace talks with Moscow whereas Putin remained as president.
Retired U.S. Basic Ben Hodges, a former commander of the U.S. Military in Europe, mentioned a Russian defeat in Lyman after Putin’s declaration can be a serious political and navy embarrassment for the Russian chief.
“This places in brilliant lights that his declare is illegitimate and can’t be enforced,” he mentioned.
It remained to be seen how Ukrainian commanders would exploit the rout, he mentioned, including it doubtless would additional erode the morale of Moscow’s troops holding different Ukrainian territory.
Cherevatyi mentioned the operation round Lyman was nonetheless beneath means and Russian troops had been mounting unsuccessful makes an attempt to interrupt out of the encirclement.
“Some are surrendering, they’ve numerous killed and wounded, however the operation just isn’t but over,” he mentioned.
Ukraine’s exiled governor of Luhansk mentioned Russian forces had requested for a protected exit out of the encirclement, however Ukraine rejected the request.
The Ukrainian Basic Workers advised Reuters it had no such info.