Zelenskyy says Lyman in Donetsk is completely liberated.jpgw1440

Zelenskyy says Lyman in Donetsk is completely liberated

KIEV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday announced the full recovery of a strategic city in eastern Ukraine amid a public brawl in Russia over responsibility for the recent backlash in the Kremlin’s goal of seizing large parts of Ukraine , aggravated.

Meanwhile, Kiev’s Western supporters welcomed the advance of Ukrainian forces into areas Moscow has declared will soon be part of Russia.

Zelenskyi said the town of Lyman, which Russian troops have used as a key logistics hub in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region since arriving this spring, had been completely “cleared of Russian occupiers” since midday local time, according to the Defense Ministry said on Twitter.

The president’s statement came a day after the Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged it was being forced to withdraw troops from Lyman “to more advantageous lines”.

The consolidation of Ukrainian control of the city, followed by other gains by those forces since the launch of a major counteroffensive last month, provided a sharp contrast to Russia’s progressive moves to conquer Donetsk and three other eastern regions after a series of staged referendums officially incorporated into Russia last week, which Kyiv and its Western backers have denounced as illegal and illegitimate.

Former senior US officials David Petraeus and HR McMaster said on October 2 Russian President Vladimir Putin’s recent threats in Ukraine would not change the war. (Video: JM Rieger/Washington Post)

Zelenskyi sneered at Putin’s attempt to declare Russian authority by order over areas now being retaken by Ukrainian troops.

“It’s the trend,” he later said in his late-night video address. “Recently someone somewhere was holding pseudo-referendums and when the Ukrainian flag is returned nobody remembers the Russian farce with some slips and some annexations.”

The continued advance into Russian-held territories is raising the stakes in repeated threats made by President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials in recent days, suggesting Moscow may go so far as to use them nuclear weapons Defend territory it considers part of Russia, including the annexed areas of Ukraine.

Putin referred to America’s use of nuclear bombs against Japan in 1945 during a fiery speech on Friday, in which the Russian leader called the annexation of large parts of Ukraine a fulfillment of Russia’s destiny.

Ukraine’s supporters in the west, like leaders in Kyiv, have insisted they will not bow to Russian intimidation. On Sunday, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin warned Russia not to carry out escalating retaliatory measures related to Russian-held areas of Ukraine.

“Again, it’s an illegal claim; it’s an irresponsible statement,” he said in an interview with CNN. “Nuclear saber-rattling is not what we would expect from leaders of large countries with capabilities.”

Austin said he expects Ukrainian forces to continue offensive operations to retake all Russian-held territory, despite Putin’s recent order to mobilize 300,000 additional troops to step up the fight in Ukraine. Ukrainian forces are also attempting to advance deeper into Russian-controlled areas of southern Ukraine, towards the city of Kherson.

“I don’t think that’s going to stop and we will continue to support them in their efforts,” he said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described the recapture of Lyman as an example of the progress made by Ukrainian forces “because of their courage and skill, but of course also because of the advanced weapons provided by the United States and other allies.”

He pointed out that countries like Norway and Germany would increase their aid to Ukraine. “It makes a difference every day on the battlefield,” he told NBC.

The recent spate of battlefield setbacks may indicate Russia’s military is reaching a “point of stress,” said HR McMaster, a retired three-star general who served as national security adviser during the Trump administration.

“Where we might be here is really on the precipice of the real collapse of the Russian army in Ukraine. A moral collapse,” he told CBS.

But US officials have warned that despite Russia’s failure to achieve the initial goals of Putin’s February 24 invasion, including capturing Kiev, continued mobilization could still pose a formidable challenge to Ukraine. Even with larger amounts of Western aid, Ukraine’s military is dwarfed by Russia in size and armament.

The leaders of nine Eastern and Central European nations on Sunday condemned Putin’s annexation, which will be formalized by Russia’s parliament on Monday and Tuesday, saying they “cannot remain silent in the face of the blatant violation of international law”.

“We do not and will never recognize attempts by Russia to annex Ukrainian territory,” the presidents of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Poland, the Czech Republic, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Slovakia said in a joint statement.

As Russian forces attempted to establish a new line of defense after withdrawing from Lyman, pro-Kremlin Telegram channels erupted in a flurry of public reproaches and infighting over who was to blame for Moscow’s recent setbacks.

In an open conflict that underscored the disarray in Russia’s ranks, two powerful figures fighting Ukraine with their own forces launched devastating attacks on Russian Defense Ministry commanders. It began with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s criticism on Saturday of Russian military commanders and his call for tactical nuclear weapons to be used against Ukraine.

Then, in rare public statements, Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner mercenary group, added his own outspoken attack.

“Obviously, Kadyrov’s powerful statement isn’t quite my style,” he said, according to a Telegram channel associated with Wagner. “But I think we should send all these bastards barefoot with machine guns to the front lines,” he said, in an apparent reference to senior Russian military commanders.

Elena Panina, a former lawmaker and director of Russtrat, a pro-Kremlin think tank, called the public attacks on senior Russian military personnel “unprecedented” before piling up her own criticism, complaining about the lack of harsh military retaliation to punish Ukraine for the enforced one Russian retreat.

She called Ukraine’s recapture of Lyman “a direct act of aggression against Russia,” alluding to Russia’s illegal attempt to annex the region. Panina said the criticism of the Russian military command came “amid military failures and to the delight of the enemy.”

But sweeping Russia’s failures under the rug is a path “tainted with real disasters,” she said. In what appeared to be a call for the dismissal of high-ranking military officers, she called for “qualitative personnel changes of an organizational and operational nature, including emergency measures”.

“According to numerous estimates, Russia faces an enemy that is more numerous, better armed, better prepared and more motivated,” Panina said, adding that it would take a “superhuman effort” to win.

The pro-Kremlin Telegram news agency Readovka described the public expression of allegations as “worse than treason” and in a comment on its Telegram channel called for an end to public accusations of “hotheads” and “turbo patriots”.

Ukraine on Sunday continued to press for the release of an official overseeing the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, who authorities say was detained by Russia. Fighting around the facility, which is under Russian control but operated by Ukrainian engineers, has raised fears of a nuclear accident.

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he spoke to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) head Rafael Grossi, who told him the IAEA was working to secure the release of Ihor Murashov, the plant’s director.

“I stressed that Russia needs to withdraw troops and military equipment from the station,” Kuleba said in a tweet.

Morgunov reported from Kyiv. Dixon reported from Riga, Latvia.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The newest: Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed decrees annexing four occupied regions of Ukraine after staged referenda were widely denounced as illegal. Follow our live updates here.

The answer: The Biden administration on Friday announced a new round of sanctions against Russia in response to the annexations, targeting government officials and family members, Russian and Belarusian military officials and defense procurement networks. President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also said on Friday that Ukraine was requesting “accelerated entry” into NATO in an apparent response to the annexations.

In Russia: Putin on September 21 declared a military mobilization to call up up to 300,000 reservists in a dramatic attempt to reverse setbacks in his war against Ukraine. The announcement prompted an exodus of more than 180,000 people, mostly conscript men, and renewed protests and other acts of defiance against the war.

The fight: Ukraine launched a successful counter-offensive that forced a major Russian retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region in early September, as troops fled towns and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war, leaving behind large amounts of military equipment.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground since the war began – here is some of their most impressive work.

How can you help: Here are ways people in the US can support the people of Ukraine, as well as what people around the world have donated.

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