Russia has withdrawn troops from the city of Lyman in Ukraine’s Donetsk region Saturday, one day after announcing the annexation of the area and three other regions.
Ukrainian officials said earlier that their soldiers had surrounded the city.
The Russian state-owned news agency RIA reported that the Russian Defense Ministry said its forces retreated to more advantageous lines to avoid the risk of being encircled.
The ministry said Ukraine has a significant advantage in the number of its forces and brought in reserves to continue its counteroffensive retaking territory that has been captured by Russia.
Lyman has been held by Russia since May.
A video posted on Twitter by a reporter for The Kyiv Independent showed two Ukrainian soldiers tying a flag to a sign after retaking the city.
Serhiy Haidai, the regional governor of the Luhansk region, said in a tweet on Saturday that Ukrainian forces had blocked almost all ways for 5,000 Russian troops to leave the city or transport ammunition to other Russian soldiers. He said Ukraine would seek to recapture Luhansk after Lyman is retaken.
“Near 5,000 russian soldiers ended up in “#Lyman Cauldron”. The AFU blocked almost all the ways of leaving and transporting ammunition to russians. After the de-occupation of Liman, #Luhansk region is the next #UkraineRussiaWar,” he tweeted.
Denis Pushilin, the Russia-backed leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, said in a Telegram post that the city faced a semicircle of Ukrainian forces. He said a road out of the city remained under the control of local separatists and Russian forces, but it was periodically being attacked.
Pushilin said his forces were fighting against Ukraine and reserves were being called up, but Ukraine had established a serious fight for the city.
Pushilin said Ukraine is trying to overshadow the Friday announcement of Russia annexing four regions partially controlled by Russia in eastern Ukraine.
The news comes after armed Russian soldiers oversaw referendums in the regions of Luhansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia last weekend. These votes are viewed by the majority of the international community as unfree and unfair.
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Friday signed treaties of annexation for four regions of Ukraine including the Donetsk region during a lavish ceremony in the Kremlin. The move escalated a conflict that is seen by the United States and its allies as illegal.
In response, the U.S. levied additional sanctions on Russian officials and their families.
Before Russian annexation, Ukraine launched a major counteroffensive over the past month that has seen it reclaim thousands of square kilometers that Russia took earlier in the war.
A spokesperson for Ukraine’s armed forces told The Washington Post that Ukraine has also recaptured four villages near Lyman.
— Updated at 10:36 a.m.