This week, Russian leader Vladimir Putin proclaimed the annexation of four regions in Ukraine, including Donetsk, after sham referendums were held there that involved, among other signs of rigging, armed men helping with the collection of votes. Obviously, such a set-up has a predetermined outcome.
Besides that problem, Ukrainian troops also continue pushing invading Russian soldiers out of key locales in the regions Putin now claims are politically joined with Russia. Amid reports of Ukrainian personnel encircling up to 5,000 Russian soldiers around Lyman, which is in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, Russian leaders have now announced a withdrawal. “In connection with the creation of a threat of encirclement, allied troops were withdrawn from the settlement of Krasny Liman to more advantageous lines,” the Russian Defense Ministry said Saturday. Krasny Liman is the Russian name for the city. Before the Russian exit from Lyman, Ukrainian troops were already approaching control of half of Donetsk, the seizure of which — as the annexation announcement suggests — has been a key component of Russian objectives in Ukraine.
Serhii Cherevatyi, a spokesman for Ukrainian soldiers operating in eastern portions of the country, spoke of the psychological implications of the country’s advance against Putin’s invaders (to whom the Russian leader is trying to add with a draft potentially sweeping hundreds of thousands of additional troops into the war effort). “The Russian group in the area of Lyman is surrounded. The settlements of Yampil, Novoselivka, Shandryholove, Drobysheve, and Stavky are liberated. Stabilization measures are ongoing there,” Cherevatyi said. “[The liberation] of Lyman is important, because it is another step towards the liberation of the Ukrainian Donbas. This is an opportunity to go further to Kreminna and Severodonetsk. Therefore, in turn, it is psychologically very important.” Serhiy Haidai, who leads the Ukrainian government of the nearby Luhansk region, indicated locally operating Russian troops were initially denied the opportunity to retreat by their commanders.
“Occupiers asked [their command] for possibility to retreat, and they have been refused. Accordingly, they have two options. No, they actually have three options. Try to break through, surrender, or everyone there will die,” he commented. “There are several thousand of them. Yes, about 5,000. There is no exact number yet. Five thousand is still a colossal grouping. There has never been such a large group in the encirclement before. All routes for the supply of ammunition or the retreat of the group are all completely blocked.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. is continuing its support for the country amid its struggle against Putin’s aggression. Just recently, the Biden administration even announced nearly half a billion dollars worth of support for Ukrainian law enforcement and criminal justice personnel, support that has historically included personal protective equipment, medical supplies, and armored vehicles, per a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken. At considerable distance from the front lines, some Ukrainian cities still face threats of Russian strikes from the air, and this assistance would help with responding to those looming threats. “In addition to expanding our direct assistance to Ukrainian law enforcement, a portion of this new assistance will also continue U.S. support for the Ukrainian government’s efforts to document, investigate, and prosecute atrocities perpetrated by Russia’s forces,” Blinken added this week.