Live: Ukraine says troops edging closer to retaking Russian-held stronghold of Lyman
Ukrainian forces on Saturday entered the eastern town of Lyman in the Donetsk region, a logistics hub for Russian forces that has been under Moscow’s control since spring, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s military said. Russia’s defence ministry said its troops had withdrawn from the town hours after Ukraine’s army said it had “encircled” several thousand. Read about the day’s events as they unfolded on our liveblog. All times Paris time (GMT+2).
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10:00pm: Germany to deliver advanced air defence system to Ukraine
Germany will deliver the first of four advanced IRIS-T air defence systems to Ukraine in the coming days to help ward off drone attacks, its Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said during an unannounced visit to Odesa on Saturday.
As air raid sirens sounded in the port city above, Lambrecht held talks with her Ukrainian counterpart Oleksii Reznikov in an underground bunker. Lambrecht had extended a visit to nearby Moldova for the meeting.
“In a few days, we will deliver the very modern IRIS-T air defence system,” she told ARD television. “It is very important for drone defence in particular.”
Ukraine has been seeing more attacks from Iranian-made kamikaze drones in recent weeks, costing lives and causing serious damage to infrastructure.
It first emerged in May that Berlin was considering sending the IRIS-T surface-to-air defence system, which costs €150 million. The system is reckoned among the world’s most advanced.
Earlier, meeting her Moldovan counterpart Anatolie Nosatii in Chisinau, Lambrecht urged Western countries not to be deterred from arming Ukraine by threats that Russia could use nuclear weapons.
“We have to be very careful,” she said. “But we mustn’t let ourselves be paralysed.”
8:30pm: Zelensky says fighting ‘still going on’ in key Donetsk town of Lyman
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Saturday said fighting was continuing in the key town of Lyman, which Russia said earlier in the day its troops had abandoned to avoid being trapped.
“The Ukrainian flag is already in Lyman in the Donetsk region. Fighting is still going on there,” Zelensky said in a late night video address.
5:46pm: Chechnya’s Kadyrov calls for Moscow to use ‘low-yield nuclear weapon’ after loss of Lyman
As Russia confirmed the loss of its stronghold of Lyman in eastern Ukraine, Kadyrov wrote on Telegram: “In my personal opinion, more drastic measures should be taken, right up to the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use of low-yield nuclear weapons.”
Other top Putin allies, including former president Dmitry Medvedev, have suggested that Russia may need to resort to nuclear weapons, but Kadyrov’s call was the most urgent and explicit.
He was speaking a day after President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the annexation of four Ukrainian regions – including Donetsk, where Lyman is located – and placed them under Russia’s nuclear umbrella, saying Moscow would defend the lands it had seized “with all our strength and all our means”.
Russia’s defence ministry on Saturday announced a withdrawal from Lyman, a major stronghold and logistical hub for its forces in Donetsk, saying that a Ukrainian advance had threatened its units with encirclement.
It was the latest in a series of battlefield losses for Russia, after its forces were routed from Kharkiv region by a lightning Ukrainian counteroffensive last month.
5:36pm: Death toll rises in attack on civilian convoy in eastern Ukraine
Ukraine on Saturday accused Russian forces of gunning down 24 civilians including children in an attack on a road convoy near the recently recaptured town of Kupiansk.
Kharkiv regional governor Oleg Synegubov raised the preliminary death toll from the attack to 24, including, he said, a pregnant woman and 13 children, alleging: “Russians fired on the civilians at close range.”
Ukrainian troops had on Friday shown AFP reporters a group of vehicles riddled with bullet holes and several corpses in civilian clothes outside the village of Kyrylivka, a short distance east of Kupiansk. The reporters counted the bodies of at least 11 civilians in the wrecked cars.
The Kharkiv region prosecutor’s office said: “On September 30, prosecutors, investigators of the Security Service and the police discovered a convoy of seven cars that had been shot.”
“The car queue was shot by the Russian army on September 25, when civilians were trying to evacuate,” the statement alleged.
Ukrainian officials have launched an investigation and allege that Russian forces that were driven out of Kyrylivka last Sunday were behind the war’s latest apparent massacre.
“The occupiers are being defeated on the battlefield and desperately respond by killing civilians,” said the head of Ukraine’s security service, Vasyl Malyuk.
4:00pm: Russian troops have pulled out of Lyman, Moscow says
Russia said Saturday it had withdrawn its troops from Lyman, a key town in eastern Ukraine that Ukrainian forces entered earlier today.
“In connection with the creation of a threat of encirclement, the allied troops were withdrawn from the settlement of Krasny Lyman to more favourable lines,” Russia’s defence ministry said in its daily briefing, after Ukraine’s army said it “encircled” several thousand Russian troops near the town.
Lyman is in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, one of the four Ukrainian regions that Russia has moved to annex.
3:18pm: Ukraine’s forces have entered key town of Lyman in Donetsk region
Ukrainian forces have entered the eastern town of Lyman, a Russian stronghold that Kyiv says it has encircled, and battles are raging, a spokesperson for Ukraine’s eastern forces said on Saturday.
The spokesperson, Serhii Cherevatyi, made the comments on television.
The capture of Lyman would be a major setback for Moscow after President Vladimir Putin proclaimed the annexation of the Donetsk region, along with three other regions, at a ceremony on Friday that was condemned by Kyiv and the West as a farce.
Two grinning Ukrainian soldiers taped the yellow-and-blue national flag onto the “Lyman” welcome sign at the town’s entrance, a video posted by the president’s chief of staff and the ministry of defence showed.
“Oct. 1. We’re unfurling our state flag and establishing it on our land. Lyman will be Ukraine,” one of the soldiers said, standing on the bonnet of a military vehicle.
2:58pm: Russian authorities tell IAEA that the head of Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is being held for questioning
Russian authorities have informed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that the head of Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, Ihor Murashov, is being held for questioning, the UN agency said on Saturday.
“The IAEA sought clarification from the Russian authorities and has been informed that the director-general of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant was temporarily detained to answer questions,” a spokesperson said without elaborating.
Ukraine’s nuclear power provider Energoatom accused Russia on Saturday of “kidnapping” Murashov on Friday.
Kyiv said Saturday it condemned “in the strongest terms the illegal detention” of Murashov.
“The crime … represents a grave violation of international law. Russia must immediately release” Murashov, Ukraine’s foreign ministry said.
2:48pm: Italy’s energy giant Eni says Gazprom, citing transport problem, has suspended gas deliveries
Russia’s Gazprom has suspended gas deliveries to Italy’s Eni, blaming a transport problem in Austria, the Italian energy giant said on Saturday.
“Gazprom told us that it was not able to confirm the delivery of the volumes demanded for today, citing the impossibility of gas transport through Austria,” Eni said in a statement.
Most Russian gas delivered to Italy passes via Ukraine through the Trans Austria Gas Pipeline (TAG) to Tarvisio in northern Italy on the border with Austria.
Before the war in Ukraine, Italy imported 95 percent of the gas it consumes – about 45 percent of which came from Russia.
Outgoing Prime Minister Mario Draghi has signed new deals with other gas producers to reduce Italy’s reliance on Russia, lowered to 25 percent as of June, while accelerating a shift towards renewable energies.
2:46pm: Capturing Lyman could set Ukrainian forces up for further advance into Luhansk
If Ukraine captures the eastern town of Lyman, where, an army spokesman said Saturday, Russian troops are “encircled”, it could set Kyiv’s forces up for a rapid advance further into the Luhansk region, reports FRANCE 24 correspondent Gulliver Cragg.
1:50pm: 20 found dead after attack on civilian convoy in Ukraine, says Kharkiv governor
The bodies of 20 people were found following an attack on a convoy of cars with civilians near the town of Kupiansk in northeastern Ukraine, the governor of the Kharkiv region said Saturday.
“According to preliminary data, 20 people died in the cars… The occupiers attacked civilians who tried to escape the shelling. This is cruelty that has no justification,” governor Oleg Synegubov said on the Telegram messenger site.
1:21pm: Russian troops ‘encircled’ in key Ukraine town
“The Russian grouping near Lyman is encircled,” Serhiy Cherevatyi, a spokesman for Ukraine’s eastern forces, said, according to the Interfax-Ukraine news agency.
He said that previously there were “around 5,000-5,500” Russian troops in the area, but military action could have “reduced” their numbers.
According to Cherevatyi, five villages near Lyman in the eastern Donetsk region had been liberated.
Also on Saturday, the governor of the neighbouring Lugansk region, Sergiy Gaiday, said on social media that nearly 5,000 Russian troops ended up in the “Lyman Cauldron”.
He said the surrounded troops have three options: “try to break through, all die together or surrender”.
12:03pm: UN watchdog asks Russian authorities about Ukrainian nuclear plant head
The International Atomic Energy Agency said it was seeking information about the director general of Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant whom the state-owned company in charge of the plant said was detained by a Russian patrol.
“We have contacted Russian authorities and are requesting clarifications,” a spokesperson for the IAEA, the UN nuclear watchdog, said in response to a query on Saturday.
11:15am: Turkey rejects Russian annexation of Ukraine provinces
A foreign ministry statement said Ankara had not recognised Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and held the same stance after Russia on Friday declared Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia part of its territory after referendums that were slammed globally as a sham vote.
“Turkey did not recognise Russia’s annexation of Crimea in an illegitimate referendum in 2014 and has emphasised its strong support to Ukraine’s territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty on every occasion,” the ministry said.
It added it rejected the latest annexation “which constitutes a grave violation of the established principles of international law”.
“We reiterate our support to the resolution of this war, the severity of which keeps growing, based on a just peace that will be reached through negotiations,” the statement added.
8:50am: Russia accused of ‘kidnapping’ head of Ukraine nuclear plant
Ukraine’s nuclear power provider accused Russia on Saturday of “kidnapping” the head of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, a facility now occupied by Russian troops and located in a region of Ukraine that Russian President Vladimir Putin has moved to annex illegally.
Russian forces seized the director-general of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Ihor Murashov, around 4pm Friday, Ukrainian state nuclear company Energoatom said. That was just hours after Putin, in a sharp escalation of his war, signed treaties to absorb Moscow-controlled Ukrainian territory into Russia.
Energoatom said Russian troops stopped Murashov’s car, blindfolded him and then took him to an undisclosed location.
“His detention by (Russia) jeopardizes the safety of Ukraine and Europe’s largest nuclear power plant,” said Energoatom President Petro Kotin said.
Kotin demanded that Russia immediately release Murashov.
Russia did not immediately acknowledge seizing the plant director. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which has staff at the plant, did not immediately acknowledge Energoatom’s claim of Murashov’s capture.
8:47am: Ukrainians perceive an opportunity for fast-track NATO entry after Putin’s speech
Reporting from Kyiv and referring to Vladimir Putin’s speech from yesterday, FRANCE 24’s correspondent in Kyiv Gulliver Cragg says, “Perhaps more than ever before, Vladimir Putin directed his vitriol at what he describes as the ‘collective West’. It was not just a speech about Ukraine that Vladimir Putin made, but one that really made clear that he regards the West as Russia’s enemy. [. . .] That was the change needed for Volodymyr Zelensky to say, ‘look, West, we are the guys defending you’ and as he put it, ‘we are de-facto already part of the NATO alliance because Ukraine is now using NATO-supplied weapons and has show itself capable of using them'”.
7:20am: Zelensky hails ‘significant results’ of counteroffensive in east Ukraine
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday hailed the successes of Ukraine’s counteroffensive in the east, as Kyiv’s forces appear to be edging closer to retaking the key town of Lyman, which Moscow captured in the spring.
“We have significant results in the east of our country. There is already enough public information about this. Everyone has heard what is happening in Lyman, Donetsk region. These steps mean a lot to us,” Zelensky said in his daily address to the nation.
6:29am: World Bank to give Ukraine $530 mln in additional aid
The World Bank has said it will provide an additional $530 million in support to Ukraine, bringing the total aid by the bank to $13 billion, as Russia’s invasion of the country continues.
The aid is supported by the United Kingdom ($500 million) and the Kingdom of Denmark ($30 million), the World Bank said in a statement.
Of the total aid of $13 billion to Ukraine to date, $11 billion has been fully disbursed, the bank added. The World Bank’s most recent analysis puts the total long-term cost of reconstruction and recovery in Ukraine over the next three years at well over $100 billion, said Arup Banerji, World Bank Regional Country Director for Eastern Europe.
5:40am: Putin annexes Ukraine territories, Kyiv vows to fight back
Russian President Vladimir Putin signed treaties Friday to illegally annex more occupied Ukrainian territory in a sharp escalation of his war. Ukraine’s president countered with a surprise application to join the NATO military alliance.
The event at the Kremlin — a turning point in post-Soviet history — came hours after shelling killed 30 people in Ukraine’s southern region of Zaporizhzhia in one of the worst attacks against civilians in months.
Putin was defiant during his address to Russia’s political elite, telling the West that the internationally condemned manoeuvre was irreversible and urging Ukraine to negotiate a surrender.
“I want to say this to the Kyiv regime and its masters in the West: People living in Lugansk, Donetsk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia are becoming our citizens forever,” Putin said.
Washington announced “severe” new sanctions against Russian officials and the country’s defence industry, and said G7 allies support imposing “costs” on any nation that backs the annexation.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP & Reuters)