Ukrainian troops enter Lehman, Kyiv says Russian troops surrounded

  • Ukrainian soldiers raise the flag at the entrance to Lehman
  • Fighting in town is in full swing, army spokesman said
  • Lehman is the main logistics hub in the Eastern Donetsk region
  • Donetsk is one of four regions Putin says is now Russia

Kyiv, Oct. 1 (Reuters) – Russia said on Saturday that its troops had abandoned their Lehman fortress in eastern Ukraine for fear of being surrounded, and the Chechen leader, a close Kremlin ally, said Moscow should consider the Eastern Ukraine uses low-yield nuclear weapons. respond.

The town’s fall was a major setback for Moscow after President Vladimir Putin announced the annexation of the Donetsk region, along with three other regions, at a ceremony on Friday, which Kyiv and the West denounced as a farce.

“Due to the threat of siege, the Allied forces withdrew from the Lehman settlement to a more favorable line of defense,” the Russian Defense Ministry said.

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The statement ended hours of official silence from Moscow after Kyiv first said it had surrounded thousands of Russian troops in the area and then its troops were inside the town of Lehman.

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, who calls himself Putin’s infantry, said he could not remain silent after Moscow renounced the territory, a day after the Kremlin declared it part of Russia.

“In my personal opinion, tougher measures should be taken until the declaration of martial law and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons in border areas,” Kadyrov wrote in a Telegram post mocking a Russian general.

The Russian Defense Ministry statement made no mention of its troops being surrounded.

“Russian groups in the Lehman region are surrounded,” Shervati, a spokesman for the eastern Ukrainian forces, said a few hours ago.

He said Russia had 5,000 to 5,500 troops in Lehman, but the number of besieged troops could be reduced due to casualties.

“We are already in Lyman, but there is a fight,” the spokesman said on television.

A video released by the presidential chief of staff showed two smiling Ukrainian soldiers sticking the yellow and blue flag to a welcome sign at the entrance to a town in the northern Donetsk region.

“October 1. We’re unfolding our state flag and building it on our land. Lehman will be Ukraine,” said one of the soldiers, standing on the hood of a military vehicle.

Neither side’s battlefield claims could be independently verified.

Logistics President

Russia has used Lehman as a logistics and transportation hub for its operations in the northern Donetsk region. Its defeat would be Ukraine’s biggest battlefield gain since last month’s blitzkrieg in northeastern Kharkiv.

A Ukrainian military spokesman said the capture of Lehman would allow Kyiv to advance into the Luhansk region, which Moscow announced in early July after weeks of slow and difficult progress.

“Lyman is important because it’s the next step in the liberation of Ukraine’s Donbass. It’s an opportunity to go deeper into Klimina and Sivir Donetsk, which is very important psychologically,” he said.

Together, the Donetsk and Luhansk regions make up the wider Donbass region, which has been Russia’s main focus since shortly after Moscow’s invasion began on February 2. 24 In what it calls “special military operations”, it demilitarized its neighbors.

In a ceremony on Friday, Putin declared the Donbas regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporozhye as Russian land – a territory equivalent to about 18 percent of Ukraine’s total land area. %.

Ukraine and its Western allies have called Russia’s move illegal. Kyiv has vowed to continue to liberate the country from the Russian military and said there will be no peace talks with Moscow while Putin remains president.

Retired U.S. General Ben Hodges, a former commander of U.S. forces in Europe and the United States, said Russia’s defeat at Lehman would create a major political and military embarrassment for Russian leaders following Putin’s statement.

“This shows that his claims are illegal and unenforceable,” he said.

It remains to be seen how Ukrainian commanders will take advantage of the rout, he said, adding that it could further undermine the morale of Moscow’s forces controlling other Ukrainian territories.

Cherevatyi said operations around Lehman were still ongoing, with Russian troops trying unsuccessfully to break through the encirclement.

“Some people are surrendering, they have a lot of casualties, but the operation is not over,” he said.

Ukraine’s exiled Luhansk governor said the Russian army had asked for a safe withdrawal from the encirclement, but Ukraine rejected the request.

The Ukrainian General Staff told Reuters it had no such information.

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Additional reporting by Jonathan Landay, Felix Light, Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Frances Kerry, Gareth Jones and Nick Macfie

Our Standard: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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