Retreating Russians leave the bodies of their comrades behind

LYMAN, Ukraine >> Russian troops left a key Ukrainian city so quickly they left the bodies of their comrades on the streets, providing further evidence today of Moscow’s recent military defeat as it struggles to hold on to four regions of Ukraine that illegally annexed it last week.

Meanwhile, Russia’s upper house of parliament has approved annexations following “referendums” that Ukraine and its western allies have dismissed as fraudulent.

In response to the move, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky formally ruled out talks with Russia, saying negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin were impossible after his decision to take over the regions.

The Kremlin responded that it would wait until Ukraine was ready to sit down for talks, noting that this might not happen until a new Ukrainian president takes office.

“We will wait for the incumbent president to change his position, or for a future Ukrainian president to change his position in the interests of the Ukrainian people,” said Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.

Despite the Kremlin’s apparent political bravery, the image on the ground underscored the confusion Putin faces over his response to Ukrainian incursions and attempts to establish new Russian borders.

Over the weekend, Russian troops withdrew from Lyman, a strategic eastern city that the Russians had used as a logistics and transport hub to avoid being encircled by Ukrainian forces. The liberation of the city gave Ukraine an important starting point to push its offensive deeper into Russian-held areas.

Two days later, an Associated Press team reporting from the city saw at least 18 bodies of Russian soldiers still on the ground. The Ukrainian military appeared to have collected the bodies of their comrades after fierce fighting for control of Lyman, but they did not immediately remove those of the Russians.

“We are fighting for our country, for our children, so that our people can live better, but all of this comes at a very high price,” said a Ukrainian soldier nicknamed Rud.

Lyman residents emerged from basements where they hid during the battle and built campfires for cooking. The city has had no water, electricity or gas since May. Residential buildings were burned down. A few local residents showed up on bicycles.

An 85-year-old woman, who identified herself by her name and patronymic, Valentyna Kuzmivna, recalled a recent explosion nearby.

“I was standing in the hall about five meters away when it boomed,” she said. “God forbid, I can’t hear very well now.”

Russian forces launched more rocket attacks on Ukrainian cities today as Kiev forces stepped up counter-offensives in the east and south.

Several rockets hit Ukraine’s second largest city, Kharkiv, damaging its infrastructure and causing power outages. Kharkiv Governor Oleh Syniehubov said one person was killed and at least two others, including a 9-year-old girl, were injured.

In the south, four civilians were injured when Russian missiles hit the town of Nikopol.

After retaking control of Lyman in the Donetsk region, Ukrainian forces pushed further east and may have pushed as far as the border of the neighboring Luhansk region as they advanced towards Kreminna, the Washington-based Institute for War Studies said in its recent analysis of the combat situation.

On Monday, Ukrainian forces also made significant advances in the south, raising flags over the villages of Archanhelske, Myroliubivka, Khreshchenivka, Mykhalivka and Novovorontsovka.

Despite recent military gains, Ukraine’s Deputy Foreign Minister Yevhen Perebyinis has called for more weapons to be stationed in Ukraine after Russia announced partial mobilization last month.

In a video address at a conference in Turkey’s capital Ankara on today’s Russia-Ukraine war, Perebyinis said the additional weapons would not lead to an escalation, but would help end the war earlier.

“We need additional long-range artillery and ammunition, fighter jets and armored vehicles to continue the liberation of the occupied territories,” the deputy minister said. “We need anti-aircraft and missile defense systems to protect our civilian population and critical infrastructure from terrorist attacks on Russian forces.”

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said today that the military had recruited more than 200,000 reservists as part of a partial mobilization that began two weeks ago. He said the recruits were trained at 80 firing ranges before being deployed to the front lines in Ukraine.

Putin’s mobilization order called for up to 300,000 reservists to be called up, but left the door open for even larger activations. It sparked protests in many areas across Russia, driving tens of thousands of men to flee Russia to challenge the Kremlin.

Ukraine’s successes in the east and south even came as Russia attempted to take over four Ukrainian regions amid fighting there.

The upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, today voted to ratify the treaties that will make the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk and the southern regions of Kherson and Zaporizhia part of Russia. The House of Commons did so on Monday.

Putin is expected to quickly approve the annexation treaties.

Russia’s moves to incorporate Ukraine’s regions were carried out so hastily that even the exact boundaries of the territories to be taken were unclear.

In other developments, the head of the company that operates Europe’s largest nuclear power plant said Ukraine is considering restarting the Russian-occupied plant to ensure its safety as winter approaches.

In an interview today with The Associated Press, Energoatom President Petro Kotin said the company could restart two of the reactors at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant within a few days.

“If you have a low temperature, you will just freeze everything inside. Safety equipment will be damaged,” he said.

Fears that the war in Ukraine could lead to a radiation leak at the Zaporizhzhia plant led to the remaining reactors being shut down. The facility was damaged by shelling, sparking international concern about the possibility of a disaster.

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