Russian Forces Flee Annexed Lyman as Kyiv Troops Raise Ukraine Flag in City

Moscow's troops have withdrawn from the Donetsk city of Lyman, Russia's defense ministry has said, delivering a fresh setback to Russian President Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine.

Footage of Ukrainian soldiers hoisting their flag on the outskirts of the city occupied by Russia since May, were widely shared on social media on Saturday.

Kyiv had said that its troops had surrounded up to 5,000 of Putin's troops in the strategic location, with the Russian Defense Ministry confirming that it had "retreated to more advantageous lines," Russian-state news agency RIA reported.

Ukrainian troops with flag in Lyman
A screengrab from a video shared on social media shows Ukrainian troops erecting a flag in Lyman, in the Donetsk region on October 1, 2022. Ukraine's military said it had surrounded thousands of Russian soldiers in the town which had been under Russian occupation. Screen grab via Twitter

The statement emphasized Russian gains against Kyiv, saying that it made strikes on the 66th and 93rd mechanized brigades of the Ukrainian forces and killed more than 200 servicemen, and destroyed five tanks and nine infantry fighting vehicles.

"Despite the losses incurred, having a significant superiority in forces and means, the enemy brought in reserves and continued the offensive in this direction," the defense ministry statement added.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Defense had earlier tweeted on Saturday that the Ukrainian army "has and will always have the decisive vote in today's and any future 'referendums.'" Kyiv Independent journalist Ilia Ponomarenko tweeted: "The Battle of Lyman is the Ukrainian victory."

The blow to Putin comes only a day after he signed what the Kremlin has called "accession treaties" to annex Donetsk, as well as three other regions of the Eastern European country: Luhansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

On Friday, Putin announced that the area was Moscow's "for ever" while thousands of people gathered in Red Square to celebrate the annexations that have been condemned globally.

It comes less than a month after Russian troops abandoned Balakleya and Izyum in the Kharkiv region following the success of Ukraine's counteroffensive.

Following the latest retreat, Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov, who has troops fighting for Putin in Ukraine and who has been critical of Russia's war effort, said that "more drastic measures must be taken," even suggesting "the use of low-yield nuclear weapons."

He also criticized the commander of the Central Military District, Colonel-General Alexander Lapin, for not providing units with the necessary communications or ammunition.

Kadyrov wrote on his Telegram social media channel how in the army, "it is necessary to appoint people of a strong character, courageous, principled, who worry about their fighters," adding there is "no place for nepotism.. especially in difficult times."

Update 10/01/22, 11.30. ET: This article has been updated with a further information.