As of a recent point around the time of annexation claims from Putin and the Kremlin covering four regions in Ukraine, Luhansk was the jurisdiction among the four where Russian troops held the most ground — and now, the region’s Ukrainian governor is announcing the liberation of territory there following Ukrainian successes in nearby locales including the Kharkiv region.
“Ukraine’s Armed Forces liberated Novoliubivka, Nevske, Hrekivka, Novoiehorivka, Nadiia, Andriivka, and Stelmakhivka villages, according to Luhansk Oblast Governor Serhiy Haidai,” as reported by the Ukrainian news source The Kyiv Independent. In earlier comments, Haidai tied counteroffensive operations by Ukrainian forces in the Luhansk region to the recent liberation of Lyman, a Donetsk-region city where up to around 5,000 Russian troops were operating, some of whom eventually fled despite commanders’ directives for holding the city, according to information obtained by a Western defense official.
“As soon as we indicate certain names [of settlements], the Russian occupying forces, in some powerless anger, start shelling these villages and small towns more often,” Haidai said last week. “Even the remains of the existing infrastructure are being destroyed. In general, the direction is clear. After the liberation of Lyman, it was the turn of Luhansk region as well.” “In Lyman, we think that the Russian troops retreated despite orders to defend and remain,” a Western official said. “Relinquishing this area is exactly what the Kremlin did not want to happen.” Claims of the Russian annexation of Luhansk, along with nearby regions including Donetsk, followed sham referendums in the areas in which armed men were involved with collecting votes, as though the preordained nature of the outcomes wasn’t already sufficiently clear.
In other developments in the war, there was a major explosion affecting a bridge linking Crimea in Ukraine with Russia, although there have apparently been no formal claims of responsibility as of early this weekend. (News reporting evidently indicated involvement by Ukrainian intelligence.) Russian forces continue to exert control over Crimea, although Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, shunning negotiations Putin has clearly established would be substantially limited in scope as hostilities continue, has touted a goal of eventually returning control of Crimea to Ukraine. The bridge affected by the explosion was used to supply Russian troops participating in the war, to which Putin has been seeking to add with the announcement of a draft, although local transportation routes weren’t completely destroyed. (A railway, for instance, apparently remains operational.)
“The collapsed lane of the road bridge will restrict Russian military movements until it is repaired, forcing some Russian forces to rely on the ferry connection for some time,” per the Institute for the Study of War in an update regarding Ukraine issued this Saturday. “Russian forces will likely still be able to transport heavy military equipment via the railroad. Russian officials will likely intensify security checks on all vehicles crossing the bridge, however, adding delays to the movement of Russian military equipment, personnel, and supplies to Crimea. Putin has already signed a decree strengthening the security protocol on the bridge under the supervision of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB).”