LYMAN, Ukraine –
Russian troops abandoned a key Ukrainian city so quickly they left the bodies of their comrades in the streets, offering more evidence Tuesday of Moscow’s latest military defeat as it struggles to hold on to four regions of Ukraine it illegally annexed last week.
Meanwhile, Russia’s upper house of parliament approved the annexations following “referendums” that Ukraine and its Western allies dismissed as fraudulent.
In response to the move, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy formally ruled out talks with Russia, stating that negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin are impossible after his decision to seize the regions.
The Kremlin responded by saying it will wait for Ukraine to agree to sit down for talks, noting that it may not happen until a new Ukrainian president takes office.
“We will wait for the current president to change his position or we will wait for a future Ukrainian president to revise his position in the interests of the Ukrainian people,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Despite the Kremlin’s apparent political bravado, the picture on the ground underscores the mess Putin faces in his response to Ukrainian advances and attempts to establish new Russian borders.
Over the weekend, Russian troops withdrew from Lyman, a strategic eastern city that the Russians had used as a logistics and transportation hub, to avoid being encircled by Ukrainian forces. The liberation of the city gave Ukraine a key leverage point to drive its offensive deeper into Russian-held territories.
Two days later, an Associated Press team reporting from the city saw at least 18 bodies of Russian soldiers still on the ground. The Ukrainian army appeared to have collected the bodies of their comrades after fierce battles for control of Lyman, but did not immediately remove those of the Russians.
“We fight for our land, for our children, so that our people can live better, but all this comes at a very high price,” said a Ukrainian soldier who goes by the nom de guerre Rud.
Lyman residents came out of the cellars where they had hidden during the battle and built fires to cook. The city has been without water, electricity or gas since May. Residential buildings were burned. Some residents went out on bicycles.
An 85-year-old woman, who identified herself by her given name and patronymic, Valentyna Kuzmivna, recalled a recent explosion nearby.
“I was standing in the corridor, about five meters away, when it exploded,” he said. “God forbid, I can’t hear right now.”
Russian forces launched more missile attacks on Ukrainian cities on Tuesday as Kyiv forces pressed their counteroffensives in the east and south.
Several missiles hit Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, damaging its infrastructure and causing power outages. Kharkiv Governor Oleh Syniehubov said one person was killed and at least two others, including a 9-year-old girl, were injured.
In the south, four civilians were injured when Russian missiles fell on the city of Nikopol.
After regaining control of Lyman in the Donetsk region, Ukrainian forces pushed further east and may have reached as far as the border of the neighboring Lugansk region as they push towards Kreminna, the Institute said in its latest analysis. for the Washington-based Study of War. of the combat situation.
On Monday, Ukrainian forces also made significant gains in the south, raising flags over the villages of Arkhanhelske, Myroliubivka, Khreshchenivka, Mykhalivka and Novovorontsovka.
Despite recent military gains, Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yevhen Perebyinis has called for more weapons to be deployed in Ukraine following Russia’s partial mobilization announcement last month.
In a video addressing a conference in the Turkish capital Ankara on Russia’s war against Ukraine on Tuesday, Perebyinis said the additional weapons would not lead to an escalation but would help end the war sooner.
“We need additional long-range artillery and ammunition, fighter jets and armored vehicles to continue the liberation of the occupied territories,” the deputy minister said. “We need anti-aircraft and anti-missile defense systems to protect our civilians and critical infrastructure from terrorist attacks against Russian forces.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that the army had recruited more than 200,000 reservists as part of a partial mobilization launched two weeks ago. He said the recruits were undergoing training at 80 firing ranges before being sent to the Ukraine front.
Putin’s mobilization order said that up to 300,000 reservists would be called up, but left the door open for even greater activation. It sparked protests in many areas of Russia and forced tens of thousands of men to flee Russia in defiance of the Kremlin.
Ukraine’s successes in the east and south came even as Russia moved to absorb four Ukrainian regions amid fighting there.
The upper house of Russia’s parliament, the Federation Council, voted on Tuesday to ratify treaties to make the eastern Donetsk and Lugansk and southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions part of Russia. The lower house did so on Monday.
Putin is expected to quickly approve the annexation treaties.
Russia’s moves to incorporate the Ukrainian regions have been made so hastily that even the exact borders of the absorbed territories were unclear.
In other developments, the head of the company that operates Europe’s largest nuclear plant said Ukraine is considering restarting the Russian-occupied facility to ensure its safety as winter approaches.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Energoatom Chairman Petro Kotin said the company could restart two of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant’s reactors within days.
“If it has a low temperature, it will just freeze everything inside. Security equipment will be damaged,” she said.
Fears that the war in Ukraine could cause a radiation leak at the Zaporizhzhia plant prompted the shutdown of the remaining reactors. The plant was damaged by bombing, raising international alarm about the possibility of a disaster.
Adam Schreck reported from Kyiv.