Ukraine Strikes Back

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Russia prepares to annex occupied Ukraine despite outcry​

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia is poised to formally annex areas of Ukraine where it has military control after referendums there reportedly endorsed Moscow’s rule.

But the ballots were widely discredited and earned the Kremlin no relief Wednesday from international pressure over its assault on its neighbor.

Pro-Moscow administrations of all four occupied regions of southern and eastern Ukraine said Tuesday night that their residents voted to join Russia in five days of Kremlin-orchestrated balloting.

According to Russia-installed election officials, 93% of the ballots cast in the Zaporizhzhia region supported annexation, as did 87% in the Kherson region, 98% in the Luhansk region and 99% in Donetsk.

Russian-installed officials in those occupied regions said Wednesday they would ask President Vladimir Putin to incorporate them into Russia. It wasn’t immediately clear how the administrative process would unfold.
 

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Russia’s allies having doubts about sabre-rattling Putin​

Russia is embroiled in its biggest internal crisis since the invasion of Ukraine began on 24 February. Nationwide protests have multiplied following Vladimir Putin’s decision to mobilize 300,000 reservists to the frontline. Voices from within the Kremlin are seeking someone to blame for the loss of territory in northeastern Ukraine and the widely-reported images of Russians fleeing the country to avoid being recruited - both of which do a huge disservice to Putin’s aspirations.

But there is more bad news for Russia. The countries that until now had been more or less its allies - those that had initially tried to maintain a somewhat ambiguous stance on the war - are beginning to approach Ukraine and ask for an end to the war. Perhaps the biggest example is China, which had always leaned towards the Russian side and even expressed its desire to establish “a new world order” together with Moscow. Now, the Asian giant has recognized China’s “respect for Ukraine’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity” and its “rejection of the use of force as a means of settling differences,” Chinese Foreign Minister, Wang Yi relayed to his Ukrainian counterpart, Dmytro Kuleba on Friday.

India have also taken a step forward. Their position has been, “Clear and consistent in terms of respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries,” according to Indian Foreign Ministry spokesman Arindam Bagchi. But clearer and more consistent was the Indian president, Narendra Modi, who sent a direct message to Putin, stating that, “This is not the time for wars,” during the recent Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit.
 

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Putin Suffers Most Humiliating Ukraine Defeat Yet​

Moscow planned to celebrated the annexation of huge swathes of Eastern Ukraine Friday but Putin’s party was wrecked by a lightning counter-attack that may have trapped thousands of his men in a key city supposedly now part of Russia.

Ukrainian sources claimed that the strategic city of Lyman, which has served as a Russian military hub in Donetsk, has been encircled and supply lines cut. “Lyman! The operation to encircle the Russian group is at the stage of completion,” said Ukrainian lawmaker Oleksiy Goncharenko on Friday, although that claim could not be independently verified.

Pro-Kremlin forces have conceded that the Ukrainians have made major gains in the region and are close to cutting off the Russian staging post in northern Donetsk, which has been under Russian control since July.

Ukraine said earlier in the week they had made deep gains in the stronghold and were close to taking back the territory—despite the Russian president’s claims that the region now belonged to an enlarged Russia.

The humiliation for Moscow will continue to raise speculation that Putin could decide to lash out, in new, more brutal ways.

Russian state television political editor Maxim Yusin warned that Putin intended to push the button on a nuclear attack in the “coming days or weeks,” adding that people should “have fun because it would be a shame to live out the remaining time with pessimism.”

Military analysts say the recapture of Lyman could bolster morale and push the Ukrainian military to move to Luhansk province, which is the heart of the industrial region of the Donbas that Putin plans to annex after a bogus ballot referendum, which Western intelligence sources say was mostly held at gunpoint.

Ukraine’s military outlined a large-scale counter attack. “If Lyman falls, our forces can… cut the main supply corridor to Russian troops in Severodonetsk and Lysychansk [in Luhansk],” Ukraine's military General Staff said on Telegram.

The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) said the gains came at the same time as a monumental supply issue for the Russians. “Medical provision for Russian combat troops in Ukraine is probably growing worse,” the MoD said Friday in its weekly war assessment bulletin. “Some newly mobilized Russian reservists have been ordered to source their own combat first aid supplies, with the advice that female sanitary products are a cost-effective solution.”

Among the other issues appears to be theft, with some new soldiers using zip ties to secure tourniquet supplies, rather than the standard Velcro attachments, which make them easier to steal. “This is almost certain to hamper or render impossible the timely application of tourniquet care in the case of catastrophic bleeding on the battlefield,” the MoD statement claims. “Russian troops’ lack of confidence in sufficient medical provision is almost certainly contributing to a declining state of morale and a lack of willingness to undertake offensive operations in many units in Ukraine.”

The British military also suggests that more Russians have escaped across the border than actually fought in the war so far after a mandatory draft was instated. “The better off and well educated are over-represented among those attempting to leave Russia,” they said. “When combined with those reservists who are being mobilized, the domestic economic impact of reduced availability of labor and the acceleration of ‘brain drain’ is likely to become increasingly significant.”

Meanwhile in Moscow, plans for an annexation ceremony continue for Friday.
 

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Russian Correspondent: Thousands Of Russian Troops Are About To Get Trapped In Eastern Ukraine​

A month after launching a major counteroffensive outside the free city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian army is on the cusp of achieving one of its main near-term objectives—capturing the Russian logistics hub in the town of Lyman, just north of the Donets River 85 miles southeast of Kharkiv.

A month after launching a major counteroffensive outside the free city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, the Ukrainian army is on the cusp of achieving one of its main near-term objectives—capturing the Russian logistics hub in the town of Lyman, just north of the Donets River 85 miles southeast of Kharkiv.

If and when Lyman falls—and it’s looking likely that could happen in the coming days—the Russian army will lose a critical railway juncture. Considering how heavily the Russians lean on trains for routine supply, losing Lyman is a big deal.

Without Lyman, the Kremlin will have to reconfigure its logistics in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region. And while it does, many battalions currently clinging to defensive positions across the northern part of Donbas could starve and weaken.

The first couple weeks of Ukraine’s eastern counteroffensive were a rout. A dozen Ukrainian brigades punched through gaps in Russian lines—gaps that appeared when the Kremlin began shifting forces from the east to the south in order to meet another Ukrainian counteroffensive targeting Russian-occupied Kherson, a strategic port on the Black Sea coast.

In a heady two weeks, the Ukrainian brigades outside Kharkiv wrecked an elite Russian tank army as well as that army’s partner division—and also beat a large reserve formation that Moscow had spent the summer raising. Thousands of Russian troops fled east across the Oskil River, leaving behind hundreds of tanks, fighting vehicles and howitzers.

A frantic bid by the Russian air force to slow the Ukrainian advance ended in disaster for the Russians. Ukrainian air-defenses, including newly-delivered ex-German Gepard mobile guns, shot down four Russian jets in a single day on Saturday.

After clearing Kharkiv Oblast all the way to Oskil River and crossing the river in at least five places in order to secure lodgements for future advances, Ukrainian brigades pivoted south toward Lyman. Separately, Ukrainian forces crossed the Donets River south and east of Lyman in order to begin an envelopment of the city.

That envelopment began to close on Thursday when, according to Russian correspondent Semyon Pegov, Ukrainian forces north of Lyman cut across the main road from Drobysheve to Torske, a few miles to the east. Drobysheve is a small settlement northwest of Lyman, and a key defensive position for the Russian garrison in the area. “The situation is extremely difficult,” Pegov wrote.

The roughly 3,000 Russian troops in Lyman might still have a way out—along the road to Zarichne, to the east—but the troops in Drobysheve, potentially hundreds of them, could struggle to escape. They’d need to travel south, likely while under fire, before turning east toward Zarichne.

The end game, in this sector of the front in a war with several fronts, is playing out by the hour. “There is a tough fight going on,” Pegov wrote. But the outcome isn’t really in doubt.
 

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More than 5,000 Russian soldiers surrounded after major Ukrainian offensive​

Kyiv’s troops have been pushing further into Donetsk in recent days and weeks as it attempts to push invading forces out.
Efforts have focussed on retaking Lyman, a town held by Russia which serves as the main military bastion in the north of the semi-occupied region.
A breakthrough would amount to a tactical and symbolic victory for Ukraine just 24 hours after Vladimir Putin tried to claim Donetsk has been absorbed into Russia.
As many as 5,500 Russian troop could be trapped in the town, although that number is likely to have fallen with casualties and smaller units breaking out of the encirclement.

AA12teGW.img
 

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Turkey rejects Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territories as a «violation of international law​

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has categorically rejected Russia's annexation of the territories of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporiyia in eastern Ukraine as a "flagrant violation of international law", in a statement that strained relations between Moscow and Ankara, the latter having set itself up as one of the main mediators to put an end to the conflict in Ukraine.

The Turkish Foreign Ministry has categorically rejected Russia's annexation of the territories of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporiyia in eastern Ukraine as a "flagrant violation of international law", in a statement that strained relations between Moscow and Ankara, the latter having set itself up as one of the main mediators to put an end to the conflict in Ukraine.

The Ministry, in a note released on Saturday, recalls that Turkey, as happened in 2014, when it refused to recognize "the annexation of Crimea by Russia in an illegitimate referendum", now expresses itself in the same terms and grants its "strong support for the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of Ukraine".

"In accordance with this position, we reject Russia's decision to annex these regions as a flagrant violation of the established principles of international law," the note adds.
"We reiterate our support for an end to this war, the severity of which continues to escalate, on the basis of a just peace to be achieved through negotiations," according to the statement.
 

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Putin’s Claims to Donetsk Are News To Some Residents of Newly-Liberated Lyman​


LYMAN, Ukraine — As dusk gathered on Sunday, Elena Kharkovska stood in the courtyard of her apartment block in eastern Ukraine, contemplating what she had just learned: She had lived in Russia for a day.

LYMAN, Ukraine — As dusk gathered on Sunday, Elena Kharkovska stood in the courtyard of her apartment block in eastern Ukraine, contemplating what she had just learned: She had lived in Russia for a day.

President Vladimir V. Putin decreed on Friday that four regions of Ukraine including Donetsk, where Ms. Kharkovska’s home city of Lyman is located, would be absorbed into Russia and that its people would be Russian citizens “forever.” The Ukrainian Army recaptured Lyman, a critical rail hub, the next day.

Without electricity, radios or access to the internet, half a dozen residents said in interviews, they had no way of learning about the grandiose ceremony at the Kremlin that had welcomed them into Russia, even as Russian soldiers were fleeing from their city.

Ms. Kharkovska greeted a question about having briefly lived in Russia — at least according to the Russian interpretation of events — with a blank stare. Told that Mr. Putin had on Friday declared her town part of Russia, the retiree laughed.

“I didn’t hear anything about it,” Ms. Kharkovska said, as she kept an eye on a kettle of buckwheat that was simmering over a campfire, a necessity after months without cooking gas. “I’m in shock,” she said. “Nobody told us anything” on Friday or Saturday as the town changed hands.
 
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