As Russia claims it has made progress in its goal of seizing all of Ukraine’s disputed eastern region, Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday sought to break Europe’s resolve to punish his country with sanctions and maintain arms shipments that have sustained Ukraine’s defense.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said Lyman, the second small town to fall this week, was completely liberated by a joint force of Russian soldiers and Kremlin-backed separatists waging an eight-year war in the industrial Donbas region bordering Russian territory.
Ukraine’s train system has been transporting weapons and evicting citizens through Lyman, a crucial rail hub in the east. Control of the site would provide Russian forces with another foothold in the region; it has bridges for troops and equipment to cross the Siverskiy Donets River, which to date has impeded the Russian advance into the Donbas.
Ukrainian authorities have sent mixed signals about Lyman. On Friday, Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said Russian troops controlled most of the town and were trying to push their offensive toward Bakhmut, another town in the region.
On Saturday, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar rejected Moscow’s assertion that Lyman had fallen and said fighting was continuing in the town.
In his Saturday video message, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the situation in the east of the country was very complicated and noted that the Russian military was trying to achieve at least some result by concentrating efforts in the area.
The Kremlin reported that Putin spoke by telephone on Saturday for 80 minutes with the rulers of France and Germany in which he decried continued Western arms shipments to Ukraine and blamed Western sanctions for the disruption of global food supplies amid the conflict.