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Russia flees Liman in its first military disaster after the annexation of part of Ukraine

Ukrainian policemen remove the weapons left by the Russians in a town in Kharkov during the counteroffensive Reuters

Chechen leader Kadyrov calls on Putin to use nuclear weapons after a withdrawal that opens the door for kyiv to advance towards Lugansk

The joy over the annexation of the occupied regions of Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhia has not lasted long in the Kremlin. The Ukrainian Army entered Liman early this Saturday afternoon, a town belonging to the Donetsk oblast and bordering Lugansk that contains great military value due to its status as a communications hub and its strategic location within the invaded Donbas. The reconquest came less than twenty-six hours after President Vladimir Putin signed the accession decrees of the four regions of Ukraine in a solemn ceremony in the Kremlin to formalize his return to the “historical homeland.”

The military recovery of the city took place in the most embarrassing way possible for Moscow in these moments of euphoria. The Ukrainians managed to surround some 5,000 Russian soldiers and separatist rebels stationed in Liman in little more than one morning. This Saturday morning they played some recordings where a female voice urged them to surrender over the loudspeakers.

Bagged, dejected to the point of asking their commanders to withdraw and about to come under intense fire from three different directions, the Ministry of Defense finally ordered its troops to leave the enclave. All the strength that Putin intended to achieve to justify the invasion with the annexations -repudiated by most Western countries and not recognized even by Turkey, which is fighting in favor of peace talks and this Saturday rejected them for contravening International Law- he exhausted himself in a race where the important thing was to save his life.

Since Friday, the Ukrainians carried out an encirclement that allowed them to surround the town and block all its accesses. Denis Pushilin himself, head of the self-proclaimed republic of Donetsk, mentioned this clamp after Putin’s speeches in the Kremlin and Red Square on the occasion of the signing of the decrees. Pushilin admitted that the military operation was “worrying” and a bad ending to the annexations. During the early morning, Moscow launched intense bombardments against rival units but was unable to break the closure. The largest siege suffered by the Russian Army since the beginning of the war had been consummated

His spokesman, General Igor Konashenkov, confirmed the withdrawal in the middle of the afternoon this Saturday. “Since there was a threat of encirclement, the Allied troops were withdrawn from the settlement towards more advantageous lines.” The Russian command admitted that “the Ukrainian units had superiority in both men and weapons”, despite the fact that the early morning artillery fire had caused hundreds of casualties and destroyed a good number of tanks and armor from two mechanized brigades.

The tension reached indescribable moments. The Ukrainian governor of Lugansk, Serhii Haidai, recounted that the occupants came to ask for a safe exit, but the Kievites told them that their only chance was to break the encirclement, “surrender or die”. In the end, the Russians opted for the former and fled in blood and fire. Later, two Ukrainian soldiers pinned the national flag to the Liman entrance sign.

The victory “opens the way to the liberation of Donbas. Psychologically it is very valuable,” said the spokesman for the Eastern Group of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Serhii Cherevatyi. This is the second major victory for him after the fall of the Russian front in Kharkov three weeks ago. The conquest of Liman deprives the invaders of one of their great logistics centers, a momentous loss in an army that needs supplies to defend a thousand kilometers of border.

In addition, it paves the way for Ukraine to two strategic cities in the Lugansk region: Kreminna and Severodonetsk. However, the US War Institute has predicted that Russia will now build a new defensive line to make it difficult for local forces to maneuver from there in anticipation of an eventual incursion into the region.

It is, if possible, one of the greatest humiliations of the Russian president since the beginning of the war. Not only because he weighs down his latest challenge to the West presented in luxury two days ago, but because it is Ukraine’s first conquest of a piece of territory that Putin himself had sworn hours before that he would never return to kyiv.

The worst case scenario

But the president faces bigger concerns. The disaster will predictably inflame criticism of the invasion and the manifest incapacities of the Kremlin, leading the president into a labyrinth with a difficult exit. The Chechen leader Kadirov took just a few minutes this Saturday to condemn the “nepotism” of the Russian Army and throw Putin the worst possible challenge: “More drastic measures must be taken, even the declaration of martial law in the border areas and the use low-yield nuclear weapons. Although the atomic threat is a recurring element in the recent dialectic of the head of the Kremlin, never before has a military leader put it seriously on the table.

The latest fiasco further casts a shadow over the Russian mission, despite having annexed a not inconsiderable 15% of Ukraine, equivalent to the surface of Portugal. Keeping the Donbas occupied is turning into a titanic effort and a bloodshed. Different observers have recorded the discouragement of the first reservists sent to the battlefield: beyond the psychological effect of being in the line of fire, demoralization is spreading due to the lack of supplies, medicine and equipment. The flood of mobilized men -300,000 in total- has made the uniform reserves disappear and it is even difficult to find supplies in military clothing stores. Some soldiers are already going into combat in fisherman’s camouflage clothing.

The Kremlin postpones the call-up due to the collapse of the recruitment centers

Russian President Vladimir Putin has postponed the call-up for young people who must perform military service for a month due to the saturation of recruitment centers. The partial mobilization of some 300,000 reservists to go to the front in Ukraine has collapsed most of these offices and caused problems in the supply of equipment to the soldiers. “In order not to further aggravate this congestion, that decision has been made,” said Dmitri Peskov, spokesman for the Presidency, on Saturday. The Ministry of Defense has called up 120,000 citizens between the ages of 18 and 27, who will begin compulsory service on November 1 instead of October 1, as is the tradition in the country.

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