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Duma ratifies annexation as Kremlin admits it doesn't know Ukraine's borders

Russian culture minister reveals exhibitions to demonstrate Russian 'traditions' in Donbas

Batslava, an elderly Ukrainian, prepares soup on a stove in the newly liberated city of Kupiansk, east of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Monday. The Ukrainian army pushed Russian troops from occupied territory in the northeast of the country in a counterattack. Photo by Atef Safadi/EPA-EFE
Batslava, an elderly Ukrainian, prepares soup on a stove in the newly liberated city of Kupiansk, east of Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Monday. The Ukrainian army pushed Russian troops from occupied territory in the northeast of the country in a counterattack. Photo by Atef Safadi/EPA-EFE

Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Russian bloggers are "grieving" Russia's withdrawal from the Ukrainian city of Lyman, a key city in one of the four Ukrainian provinces illegally annexed by Russia this weekend, analysts said.

The news came as Russia's state Duma, the country's legislative body, unanimously ratified the annexation the Donetsk, Luhansk, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson regions on Monday even as the Kremlin admitted Monday that it doesn't know the borders for the land it has taken.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin had submitted the documents for the annexation of the four provinces, which were signed in Moscow on Sept. 30, to the Duma for ratification Sunday.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Lyman was "fully cleared of the Russian occupiers" by 12:30 p.m. Sunday after the Russian Defense Ministry announced the withdrawal of troops to "more advantageous lines" on Saturday.

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The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., said in its daily analysis Sunday that Russian millbloggers -- which are prominent war correspondents and former officials loyal to the Kremlin -- are "grieving the loss of Lyman."

The bloggers have criticized Russia's bureaucratic failures after Putin recently announced a partial mobilization of troops, which they blamed for contributing to the loss of Lyman.

In some TV appearances, guests even criticized Putin's decision to annex the four provinces before fully securing them, according to the think tank.

The confusion in Russia around the decision to annex the Ukrainian provinces even prompted Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov on Monday to admit in a conference call with reporters that Russian officials do not know the borders for the land it has illegally acquired.

Peskov told reporters that Russia would consider all of the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, which together make up the broader Donbas region of Ukraine, to be part of Russia even though they are not completely under Russian control, according to The New York Times.

Parts of the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson provinces also remain under the control of Ukrainian forces, which have made grounds in recent weeks in reclaiming territory in all four regions.

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"Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, in terms of the borders, we're going to continue to consult with the population of these regions," Peskov said.

Ukrainian forces reclaimed yet another village, Torske, near Lyman in the Donetsk region of Ukraine on Sunday as troops fired on Russian forces in the nearby city of Kreminna in the Luhansk region, Ukraine's Eastern Group spokesman Serhiy Cherevaty said on national television.

The British Defense Ministry, which has provided intelligence updates throughout the war, said Monday that Putin made an "unusually rapid acknowledgment of problems" in his partial mobilization of troops that "highlights the dysfunction" of his efforts.

"Local officials are likely unclear on the exact scope and legal rationale of the campaign. They have almost certainly drafted some personnel who are outside the definitions claimed by Putin and the Ministry of Defense," the intelligence update reads.

"As drafted reservists continue to assemble at tented transit camps, Russian officials are likely struggling to provide training and in finding officers to lead new units."

In response to Russia's illegal annexation of the four provinces, Ukraine has submitted an application to join NATO which has been backed by at least nine central and eastern European nations of the alliance. Admission into NATO comes with steep hurdles including the approval of all 30 nations.

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Lithuania, one of the countries to push for Ukraine's ascension into NATO, on Monday declared Russian diplomat Sergey Ryabokon a "persona non grata."

Ryabokon, the head of the Russian embassy in Vilnius, was given five days to leave Lithuania.

Olga Lyubimova, Russia's culture minister, said in a statement from the Kremlin on Monday that Russian officials have created cultural exhibitions on Russian "traditions" even as Russia has faced accusations of trying to destroy Ukrainian culture.

Lyubimova said the exhibitions, led by "key museums" in Russia, are providing the opportunity for Ukrainians living in the Donbas region of returning to their "usual cultural life."

"We went there and are now working a lot there in different directions: both children's performances have arrived, and puppet performances," Lyubimova said.

"We were asked a lot about the circus -- you know, we brought a huge program, took 12 lions out, this is a huge, big show. For many years, many children have never been to the circus."

Lyubimova 30,000 people have now seen the program of the Russian State Circus, the first Russian cultural insitituion to visit Ukraine since the war began.

"We are very glad that the guys from Donbas have such an opportunity," Lyubimova said. "Already our children from Donbas study at the circus school."

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