Russian troops began pulling out of the strategic city of Lyman in eastern Ukraine after they were surrounded by Ukraine forces Saturday, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.
The retreat of between 5,000 and 5,500 Russian soldiers came a day after Russian leader Vladimir Putin announced Russia’s illegal annexation of four occupied regions in Ukraine — the largest forcible seizure of territory since World War II.
Lyman is in the Donetsk Oblast, or province, one of the regions Putin claimed for Russia.
“Due to the risk to be encircled, the allied forces were withdrawn to more advantageous areas,” said the statement from the Russian ministry, which was posted on the Telegram app.
As the Russian troops began to pull out of Lyman, a city with a pre-war population of 20,000 and a strategic rail hub, Ukrainian soldiers were seen raising the country’s flag at the entrance to the city, according to a report. The city has been an important node for communications and logistics for Russian forces.
The withdrawal marks the latest victory for the Ukrainian counteroffensive fueled with weapons from Western allies.
“Ukraine will continue defending itself and will win in this war waged against us. Because we are on our land.,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a social media post early Saturday. “The truth is on our side. And the whole civilized world is with us.
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