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Zelensky hails progress as open recriminations in Russian media intensify

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KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced the full recovery of a strategic city in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, as a public brawl intensified in Russia over responsibility for the latest setback to the Kremlin’s goal of conquer wide swathes of the Ukraine.

Meanwhile, Kyiv’s Western backers have hailed the advance of Ukrainian forces into areas Moscow has declared will soon be part of Russia.

Zelensky said the town of Lyman, which Russian troops used as a key logistics hub in Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region since their arrival this spring, was completely “cleansed of Russian occupiers” as of noon local time, the official said. Ministry of Defence. said on Twitter.

The president’s statement came a day after the Russian Defense Ministry acknowledged that it had been forced to withdraw troops from Lyman “to more advantageous lines”.

The consolidation of Ukrainian control of the city, following other gains those forces have made since launching a major counteroffensive last month, offered a stark contrast to Russia’s advanced steps to officially incorporate Donetsk and three other eastern regions into Russia. after a series of referendums organized there. last week, which Kyiv and its Western supporters have denounced as illegal and illegitimate.

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Former top US officials David Petraeus and HR McMaster said on October 2 that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s latest threats on Ukraine would not change the war. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

Zelensky mockingly referred to Putin’s attempt to declare Russian authority by decree over the areas now being recaptured by Ukrainian troops.

“This, you know, is the trend,” he said later in his late-night video address. “Recently, someone somewhere held pseudo-referendums, and when the Ukrainian flag is returned, no one remembers the Russian farce with some papers and some annexations.”

The continued push into Russian-controlled areas increases the risk of repeated threats that President Vladimir Putin and other Russian officials have made in recent days, suggesting that Moscow could go to the extreme of using nuclear weapons to defend territory it considers part of Russia, including areas annexed from Ukraine.

Putin referenced the US use of atomic bombs against Japan in 1945 during a fiery speech on Friday, in which the Russian leader called the annexation of vast swaths of Ukraine a fulfillment of Russian destiny.

Ukraine’s supporters in the West, like leaders in Kyiv, have insisted they will not bow to Russian intimidation. On Sunday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin warned Russia not to go ahead with any escalated retaliation linked to Russian-occupied areas in Ukraine.

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“Again it is an illegal claim; it is an irresponsible statement,” she said in an interview with CNN. “Nuclear saber rattling is not the kind of thing we would expect to hear from leaders of large capable countries.”

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Austin said he expected Ukrainian forces to continue offensive operations aimed at retaking all Russian-held territory, despite Putin’s recent order to mobilize an additional 300,000 troops to bolster the fighting in Ukraine. Ukrainian forces are also trying to push deeper into Russian-held areas in southern Ukraine, towards the city of Kherson.

“I don’t think that is going to stop, and we will continue to support them in their efforts,” he said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg described Lyman’s recovery as an example of the progress Ukrainian forces were making “because of their bravery and skills, but of course also because of the advanced weapons that the United States and other allies are providing.”

He noted that countries such as Norway and Germany were increasing their aid to Ukraine. “This is making a difference on the battlefield every day,” she told NBC.

The recent series of battlefield reversals may indicate that Russia’s military is reaching a “breaking point,” said HR McMaster, a retired three-star general who served as national security adviser during the Trump administration.

“As far as we could be here is really on the verge of the collapse of the Russian military in Ukraine. A moral collapse,” he told CBS.

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But US officials have warned that even though Russia failed to achieve the initial goals of Putin’s February 24 invasion, including capturing Kyiv, the ongoing mobilization may still present Ukraine with a formidable challenge. Even with larger sums of Western aid, Ukraine’s military is dwarfed in size and weaponry by Russia’s.

Leaders of nine central and eastern European nations on Sunday condemned Putin’s annexation, which is to be formalized by the Russian parliament on Monday and Tuesday, saying they could not “remain silent in the face of the blatant violation of international law.”

“We do not and will never recognize Russian attempts to annex any Ukrainian territory,” the presidents of Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Poland, the Czech Republic, North Macedonia, Montenegro and Slovakia said in a joint statement.

As Russian forces tried to establish a new line of defense after their withdrawal from Lyman, a torrent of public recriminations and disputes over who was to blame for Moscow’s recent setbacks erupted on hardline pro-Kremlin Telegram channels.

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In an open conflict that underscored the disorder in the Russian ranks, two powerful figures with their own armed forces fighting Ukraine launched scathing attacks on Russian Defense Ministry commanders. It began with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov’s criticism on Saturday of Russian military commanders and their call to use tactical nuclear weapons against Ukraine.

Then, in rare public comments, Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin, founder of the Wagner mercenary group, added his own forceful attack.

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“Kadyrov’s expressive statement, of course, is not quite in my style,” he said, according to a Wagner-affiliated Telegram channel. “But I think we should send all these barefoot bastards to the front lines with machine guns,” he said in an apparent reference to Russia’s top military brass.

Elena Panina, a former lawmaker and director of Russtrat, a pro-Kremlin think tank, called the public attacks on top Russian military figures “unprecedented” before heaping her own criticism, complaining of a lack of harsh military retaliation to punish Ukraine. for forced Russian withdrawal.

He called Ukraine’s recovery of Lyman “a direct act of aggression against Russia,” referring to Russia’s illegal move to annex the region. Panina said the criticism of Russia’s military command came “in the midst of military failures and to the delight of the enemy.”

But sweeping Russia’s failures under the rug was a path “full of real disasters,” he said. In what appeared to be a call to fire top military officers, he called for “qualitative changes in personnel, organizational and operational in nature, up to and including emergency measures.”

“According to numerous estimates, Russia is facing an enemy that is more numerous, better armed, better prepared and better motivated,” Panina said, adding that it would take “superhuman effort” to win.

The pro-Kremlin Telegram news outlet Readovka described the public spread of the recriminations as “worse than treason” and called for an end to public accusations of “hotheads” and “turbopatriots”, in a commentary on its channel. from Telegram.

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Ukraine continued to push on Sunday for the release of an official overseeing its Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant who authorities say was detained by Russia. Fighting in the area around the facility, which is under Russian control but operated by Ukrainian engineers, has raised concerns about a nuclear accident.

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Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said he had spoken with the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Grossi, who had told him that the IAEA was working to secure the release of Ihor Murashov, director of the plant.

“I stressed that Russia must withdraw troops and military equipment from the station,” Kuleba said. in a tweet.

Morgunov reported from Kyiv. Dixon reported from Riga, Lativa.

War in Ukraine: what you need to know

The last: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees on Friday to annex four occupied regions of Ukraine, after holding referendums that were widely denounced as illegal. Follow our live updates here.

The answer: The Biden administration on Friday announced a new round of sanctions against Russia, in response to the annexations, targeting government officials and family members, Russian and Belarusian military officials, and defense procurement networks. President Volodymyr Zelensky also said on Friday that Ukraine is requesting “accelerated accession” to NATO, in an apparent response to the annexations.

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In Russia: Putin declared a military mobilization on September 21 to call up up to 300,000 reservists in a dramatic attempt to reverse setbacks in his war against Ukraine. The announcement sparked an exodus of more than 180,000 people, mostly men who were subject to the service, and renewed protests and other acts of defiance against the war.

The fight: Ukraine mounted a successful counter-offensive that forced a major Russian withdrawal in the northeastern Kharkiv region in early September, as troops fled towns and villages they had occupied since the first days of the war, abandoning large amounts of military equipment.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground since the beginning of the war; here we present some of his most impressive works.

How can you help: Here are ways those in the US can support the Ukrainian people, as well as what people around the world have been donating.

Read our full coverage of the Russo-Ukrainian War. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive videos.


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