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DN’s Michael Winarsky: Lehman’s withdrawal is another stinging setback for Putin

How important is the return of Lyman by Ukraine?

It is another heavy setback for Russia and Putin personally. Militarily, Lyman is an important junction of railways, roads and other communications. The Lyman was the last major Russian fortification line before the Luhansk region. It opens the way for the Ukrainian counter-offensive to continue further towards Luhansk, which has been mostly controlled by Russia since last spring.

But it is a psychological and symbolic Russian setback. Lyman’s loss comes a day after the Russian president formally declared in the Kremlin that the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhya and Kherson regions would now be part of Russia. With each Russian territorial loss, this annexation becomes increasingly illusory.

What is Russia’s reaction to the loss of Lehman?

In contrast to previous withdrawals, when they were interpreted as an expression of “goodwill”, this time the Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged the withdrawal of Russian forces because they were threatened by the encirclement of the Ukrainian army. According to several reports, local leaders actually wanted permission to withdraw several days ago, but were eventually rejected by Putin. In the end, it was clear to the Kremlin that upwards of 5,000 Russian soldiers at the Lyman would be captured or killed, and they surrendered and were allowed to retreat. However, the decision is controversial in Moscow. The local Chechen tyrant Ramzan Kadyrov has urged the Kremlin to consider deploying tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine.

what is happening now?

The Russian parliament is expected to go ahead on Monday and ratify the decree to annex Putin, despite the fact that the area that will be “forever Russian” is shrinking. Then it remains to be seen whether he stops at this tactical victory of Ukraine, or whether Lyman is the first step in a greater collapse of the Russian positions in the Donbass (Luhansk and Donetsk).

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