KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russia attacked the Ukrainian president’s hometown and other targets Sunday with suicide drones, and Ukraine took back full control of a strategic eastern city in a counteroffensive that has reshaped the war.
Russia’s loss of the eastern city of Lyman, which it had been using as a transport and logistics hub, is a new blow to the Kremlin as it seeks to escalate the war by illegally annexing four regions of Ukraine and heightening threats to use nuclear force.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s land grab has threatened to push the conflict to a dangerous new level. It also prompted Ukraine to formally apply for fast-track NATO membership.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced Sunday that his forces now control Lyman: “As of 12:30 p.m. Lyman is cleared fully. Thank you to our militaries, our warriors,” he said in a video address.
Russia’s military didn’t comment Sunday on Lyman, after announcing Saturday that it was withdrawing its forces there to more favorable positions.
The British military described the recapture of Lyman as a “significant political setback” for Moscow, and Ukraine appeared to swiftly capitalize on its gains.
Hours after Zelenskyy’s announcement, Ukrainian media shared an image of Ukrainian troops carrying the country’s yellow-and-blue flag in front of a statue marking the village of Torske, nine miles east of Lyman and within sight of the Russian-held Luhansk region.
Shortly later, a video posted online showed one Ukrainian soldier saying that Kyiv’s forces had begun to target the city of Kreminna, just across the border in Luhansk. Outgoing artillery could be heard in the background. Russian military correspondents also acknowledged Ukrainian attacks targeting Kreminna.
In another online photo, a Ukrainian soldier stood before a giant watermelon landmark just south of the village of Novovorontsovka on the banks of the Dnieper River, along the Russian-controlled province of Kherson’s northern edge. A Ukrainian flag flew above the statue as several apparently deactivated landmines lay beside it.
While Ukrainian forces did not immediately acknowledge a breakthrough, writers close to the Russian military have described a new offensive by Kyiv in the Kherson region.
In southern Ukraine, Zelenskyy’s hometown of Krivyi Rih came under Russian attack by a suicide drone that destroyed two stories of a school early Sunday, the regional governor said. The Ukrainian air force said Sunday it shot down five Iranian-made drones overnight, while two others made it through air defenses.
A car carrying four men seeking to forage for mushrooms in Ukraine’s Chernihiv region struck a mine, killing all those inside, authorities said Sunday.
The reports of military activity couldn’t be immediately verified.
Ukrainian forces have retaken swaths of territory, notably in the northeast around Kharkiv, in a counteroffensive in recent weeks that has embarrassed the Kremlin and prompted rare domestic criticism of Putin’s war.
Lyman, which Ukraine recaptured by encircling Russian troops, is in the Donetsk region near the border with Luhansk, two of the four regions that Russia illegally annexed Friday after forcing what was left of the population to vote in referendums at gunpoint.
In his nightly address, Zelenskyy said: “Over the past week, there have been more Ukrainian flags in the Donbas. In a week there will be even more.”
In a daily intelligence briefing Sunday, the British Defense Ministry called Lyman crucial because it has “a key road crossing over the Siversky Donets River, behind which Russia has been attempting to consolidate its defenses.”
Recent developments have raised fears of an all-out conflict between Russia and the West.
Putin frames the recent Ukrainian gains — along with NATO’s post-Soviet expansion — as a U.S.-orchestrated effort to destroy Russia, and last week he heightened threats of nuclear force in some of his toughest, most anti-Western rhetoric to date.