Following the Kremlin’s declaration that a large portion of territory was now a part of Russia the previous day, Ukrainian forces reportedly reached the entrance of the eastern bastion of Lyman on Saturday after encircling thousands of Russian soldiers.
After President Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of the Donetsk area, along with three other regions, in a ceremony in Moscow on Friday that Kyiv and the West denounced as a sham, the conquest of Lyman would be a significant setback for Russia.
A video posted by the chief of staff to the president shows two beaming Ukrainian soldiers taping the yellow-and-blue flag on the “Lyman” welcome sign at the entrance to the town in the north of the Donetsk area.
“October 1. We are unfurling our state flag and establishing it on our land. Lyman will be Ukraine,” one of the soldiers said, standing on the bonnet of a military vehicle.
According to a representative for Ukraine’s eastern military, Russia had between 5,000 and 5,500 troops near Lyman, but the number of troops that were encircled may be reduced due to injuries.
“The Russian grouping in the area of Lyman is surrounded,” the spokesperson, Serhii Cherevatyi, said on television.
An inquiry for comment was not immediately answered by the Russian defense ministry.
The most recent operational report from Russia came on Friday night. For an army holiday called Ground Forces Day on Saturday, the ministry’s Telegram channel sent a number of congratulations, including one from Putin.
Lyman has served as a supply and transportation hub for Russia’s actions in the Donetsk region’s north. If it were to fall, it would be Ukraine’s biggest battlefield victory since a quick counteroffensive in last month’s northeastern Kharkiv region.
Lyman’s seizure, according to the military spokesman for Ukraine, would enable Kiev to march into the Luhansk area, whose full surrender Moscow claimed at the start of July after weeks of plodding, slow gains.
“Lyman is important because it is the next step toward the liberation of the Ukrainian Donbas. It is an opportunity to go further to Kreminna and Sievierodonetsk, and it is psychologically very important,” he said.
The larger Donbas region, which includes the provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk, has been a significant target for Russia ever since the invasion began on February 24.
According to Cherevatyi, the effort to encircle Lyman is still going on, and Russian troops are making vain attempts to escape.
“Some are surrendering. They have a lot of killed and wounded, but the operation is not yet over,” he said.
Russian soldiers requested a safe passage from the encirclement, according to the exiled governor of Luhansk of Ukraine, but Ukraine refused the request.
According to Reuters, the Ukrainian General Staff was unaware of such intelligence.
In a ceremony on Friday, Putin declared the southern districts of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia and the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk to be Russian territory. Together, these regions make up about 18 percent of Ukraine’s total surface land area.
Russia’s action was condemned as illegitimate by Ukraine and its Western allies. Kiev vowed to keep ridding its territory of Russian forces and declared that it would not engage in peace negotiations with Moscow as long as Putin was in office.