Russia’s Ministry of Defense claimed Saturday it captured the strategic city of Lyman in eastern Ukraine as Russian forces seek to encircle thousands of Ukrainian troops in the nearby city of Severodonetsk, where block-to-block fighting was reportedly raging.
A man walks past a crater from an explosion that damaged an apartment and a basement of a … [+] residential building—killing, according to the residents, at least one person in Lyman, Ukraine, on Tuesday, April 26, 2022. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)
Russia’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement “the town of Krasny Lyman has been entirely liberated from Ukrainian nationalists,” referring to the town by its former Soviet name.
Russia’s control of Lyman gives it access to key bridges over the Siversky Donets river, according to the British Defense Ministry, which also said the capture likely marks “a preliminary operation for the next stage of Russia’s Donbas offensive.”
Lyman, a town of about 20,000 people, is on the road leading to other populous cities in the Donetsk region, like Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, and is 35 miles west of the strategic city of Severodonetsk, which if captured would give Russia control of the entire Luhansk region.
Russian troops began direct assaults on “built-up areas” of Severodonetsk on Friday without fully encircling the town, meaning Russian troops “will likely struggle to take ground in the city itself,” according to the Institute for the Study of War.
Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk regional military administration, said Saturday Severodonetsk “was not cut off,” but was under intense shelling as Russian troops entered the city.
Russian troops had seized the city’s bus station and largest hotel, but had not taken city hall, Hayday told the New York Times, and he said that a key route into the city – a bridge over the Donets – remained in Ukrainian hands.
Arif Bagirov, a Ukrainian man, told the BBC he was able to escape Severodonetsk on his bike while avoiding Russian shelling. “I found a ditch to lie in, and that’s where I laid until they had gone past,” he said of Russian warplanes. “When I was riding my bike I didn’t really feel fear so much, it was more a sense of anger: ‘This is my land, this is my country! And I will complete this journey whether you like it or not!’” Bagirov said he plans to rest once he reaches Kyiv.
30,000. That’s how many troops Russian forces have lost during the war, according to estimates from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.
Russia has scaled back the goals of its invasion and is focusing on consolidating control of the eastern Donbas region after meeting strong Ukrainian resistance and failing to capture large cities like Kyiv and Kharkiv. Severodonetsk is the last major city that Ukraine controls on the eastern side of the Donets river. The Russian military has massed some of its best remaining units to collapse the pocket around the several Ukrainian brigades defending the city. Mayor Oleksandr Striuk said “the city is being systematically destroyed” and reminded him of the attack on Mariupol, a southeastern port city which faced heavy bombardment for weeks. Ukrainian forces surrendered Mariupol earlier this month, which was a prized target for Russia as it could be used to create a land bridge from the Crimean Peninsula to the Donbas region.
One Small Town. A Dilapidated Road. These Are The Russians’ Main Targets In Eastern Ukraine. (Forbes)