A local resident sits in his car in Dolyna village in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Sunday. The Ukrainian army pushed Russian troops from occupied territory in the northeast of the country in a counterattack. Photo by Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA-EFE
Oct. 2 (UPI) -- Ukrainian troops on Sunday cleared the city of Lyman in the Donetsk province after Russian troops withdrew as Russian President Vladimir Putin sent documents for his illegal annexation of four Ukrainian provinces to the state Duma for ratification.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in a statement from the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, said that Lyman was "fully cleared of the Russian occupiers" by 12:30 p.m. Sunday.
The Russian Defense Ministry on Saturday announced the withdrawal of Russian troops from Lyman to "more advantageous lines" to avoid the "threat of encirclement" despite Putin having announced just a day earlier that Russia would illegally annex four regions of Ukraine, including Donetsk, into Russia.
Despite the withdrawal of troops, Putin persisted in his efforts to illegally annex the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions on Sunday.
Donetsk and Luhansk together make the broader Donbas region, which has been largely held by Russian-backed separatists since Russia illegally annexed the Ukrainian territory of Crimea in 2014.
Putin on Sunday introduced four treaties for the accession of the "four new regions to Russia" to the state Duma, the country's legislative body, Russian state media agency TASS said in a statement.
"Ratify the treaty between Russia and DPR on accession of Donetsk People's Republic to Russia as a new region, signed in Moscow on September 30, 2022," one entry reads, according to TASS.
Sergey Lavrov, Russia's Foreign Affairs minister, and his deputy Yevgeny Ivanov have been tapped by Putin to serve as "official representatives" for the ratification of the annexation of the "four new territories."
Zelensky, in his nightly address on Saturday, praised those around the world who have condemned the sham referendums by Russia to annex the four regions.
"I would like to especially note the statement of U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres. He bluntly said that Russia violates the goals and principles of the U.N., the U.N. Charter and that the pseudo-referendums and attempted annexation will have no legal force," Zelensky said.
"When such words are heard at the highest level in the UN, everyone in the world understands everything. And Russia has no such veto right that can stop or cancel this understanding of the world."
Ukrainian officials in recent months have ramped up their criticism of Russia's status as a permanent member of the United Nations' Security Council.
Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine's permanent ambassador to the United Nations criticized Russia's placement as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council in an interview with UPI in August.
"Russia has staged a farce in Donbas. An absolute farce, which it wanted to present as an alleged referendum," Zelensky said in his speech Saturday.
"And now a Ukrainian flag is there. During this week, there were more Ukrainian flags in Donbas. It will be even more in a week."Zelensky added that the Ukrainian flag "is already in Lyman."
The British Defense Ministry, which has been providing intelligence updates throughout the course of the war, said Sunday that Lyman was "likely being defended by undermanned elements of Russia's Western and Central Military Districts as well as contingents of voluntarily mobilized reservists."
"The force probably experienced heavy casualties as it withdrew along the only road out of the town still in Russian hands," the British Defense Ministry said.
British intelligence officials noted that Lyman is strategically important because it commands a key road crossing over the Siversky Donets River, "behind which Russia has been attempting to consolidate its defenses."
"Russia's withdrawal from Lyman also represents a significant political setback given that it is located within Donetsk Oblast, a region Russia supposedly aimed to 'liberate' and has attempted to illegally annex," the British Defense Ministry said.
"The withdrawal has led to a further wave of public criticism of Russia's military leadership by senior officials. Further losses of territory in illegally occupied territories will almost certainly lead to an intensification of this public criticism and increase the pressure on senior commanders."