Key developments on Oct. 2
- Zelensky: Liberated Lyman “fully cleared” of Russian forces
- Ukraine’s military advances in Donetsk and Kherson oblasts
- Death toll of Russian strike on Zaporizhzhia Oblast rises to 31
- Russia fires 4 missile strikes, 3 airstrikes across Ukraine
Ukraine’s counteroffensive continued on Oct. 2, a day after Russian forces withdrew from the key eastern railway hub of Lyman in a humiliating military defeat.
President Volodymyr Zelensky said Ukraine has established full control over Lyman, a city Russian forces have used as a supply hub to launch attacks in the northern part of Donetsk Oblast since it was captured in May.
The latest breakthrough in the east brings Ukraine closer to liberating Luhansk Oblast, forcing Russians to “prepare for the inevitable,” Governor Serhiy Haidai said on TV.
Losing Lyman is a major setback for Russia, especially after President Vladimir Putin vowed to “protect” Ukrainian regions he declared were part of Russia in his annexation claims on Sept. 30. Putin had said earlier that he was going to “protect” the territories Russia declared annexed with “all the means available to us.”
Ukrainian forces appear to be advancing in Donetsk Oblast on Oct. 2, with a video showing Ukrainian soldiers holding up the national flag near occupied Torske circulating on social media. Torske is a village 15 kilometers east of Lyman, near the border with Luhansk Oblast. (UPDATED: Shortly after this story was published, the Ukrainian military confirmed that they liberated the village of Torske.)
The Russian Defense Ministry has stayed silent after it announced the withdrawal from Lyman over fears of being encircled on Oct. 1. Russia’s proxy leader in Donetsk Oblast Denis Pushilin has not said anything either.
Zelensky promised on Oct. 1 that Ukraine will see other quick successes in Donbas, an eastern region comprised of Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts.
Capturing the entirety of Donbas remains the Kremlin’s key goal, which has become less realistic after the recent losses of Lyman and Izium, another logistic hub in the east, which Ukraine liberated in early September. Russia has occupied nearly the entire Luhansk Oblast but controls only about 60% of Donetsk Oblast.
Despite its battlefield setbacks, Russia’s constitutional court on Oct. 2 approved the “documents” to incorporate four Ukrainian regions, including the Donbas, into Russia. Ukraine and its Western allies condemned the annexation declaration, calling it illegal and illegitimate.
Domestic criticism in Russia
Heavy fighting continued through the night on Oct. 1, even after both sides had confirmed Ukraine recapturing Lyman.
There were about 2,000 to 3,000 Russian soldiers in Lyman by the time Ukraine’s military arrived on the city’s outskirts on Sept. 30, and they ran away chaotically into surrounding forests, spokesman of the Eastern Group of Ukraine's Armed Forces Serhiy Cherevaty told the New York Times.
Cherevaty also said that the Russian troops broke away from their units and were escaping in smaller groups, but many were either killed or captured.
The Russian retreat from Lyman enraged many in Russia, including some officials. Kremlin-installed Chechnya leader Ramzan Kadyrov on Oct. 1 urged Moscow to consider using “low-yield nuclear weapons” against Ukraine.
The U.K. Defense Ministry said on Oct. 2 that the withdrawal, which came a few weeks after Ukraine’s lightning counteroffensive in Kharkiv Oblast, led to a further wave of senior officials criticizing Russia’s military leadership.
“Further losses of territory in illegally occupied territories will almost certainly lead to an intensification of this public criticism and increase the pressure on senior commanders,” the U.K. Defense Ministry said.
Ukraine’s counteroffensive also appears to be progressing in the south.
A video has circulated of Ukrainian soldiers standing next to local residents in Zolota Balka, a village in the north of Kherson Oblast, but there is no official confirmation that it has been retaken yet. Ukraine has withheld from disclosing details about its Kherson operation, including the names of settlements it has liberated so far.
The Southern Operational Command reported that heavy fighting continues across the front line and the situation is “difficult, changing fast, but controlled.”
Ukrainian forces continue to inflict damage on Russian military positions and their soldiers, in a campaign to prevent them from bringing in more reserves into the battle, according to the command.
Russian forces are actively using drones, including Iranian kamikaze drones, to analyze the battlefield situation for future attacks and “putting psychological pressure” on Ukraine’s military, the command also said.
In Donetsk Oblast, Ukraine’s military repelled attacks near seven settlements, Ukraine’s General Staff reported.
More unexplained explosions have been reported in occupied Crimea over the weekend. On Oct. 1, explosions were reported at a Russian airbase Belbek. Ukrainian authorities have not acknowledged that it was an attack on Russian troops. Russia’s proxies in Crimea blamed an accident with a plane that “rolled out of the runway” and caught fire.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported that a “powerful explosion” pounded Crimea’s largest city of Sevastopol on Oct. 2. Russian-installed proxy in occupied Sevastopol Mikhail Razvozhayev claimed it was “a lightning strike.”
Casualties and attacks
Russian forces launched four missile strikes and three airstrikes across Ukraine on Oct. 2, predominantly in the country's east and south, Ukraine’s General Staff reported.
Early on Oct. 2, a vehicle carrying four telecommunication workers was blown up by a landmine near the town of Okhtyrka in Sumy Oblast, Governor Dmytro Zhyvytskyi reported. One telecommunications firm Ukrtelecom’s employee was killed and three others were hospitalized, according to the official.
In the southern city of Mykolaiv, an overnight Russian missile strike struck a hospital’s territory and an area near two high-rise residential buildings, injuring seven people, Governor Vitaliy Kim reported. Russian forces had also shelled a village near the city, killing two people, he added.
Donetsk Oblast Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko reported on Oct. 2 that another three people were killed and nine others were wounded across the embattled eastern region over the past day. The Russians intensively shelled areas along the 130-kilometer-long front line in the region, from west of occupied Donetsk city to Soledar, close to Luhansk Oblast, he added.
The death toll of the Russian strike that hit a humanitarian convoy in Zaporizhzhia Oblast on Sept. 30 rose to 31 people, Governor Oleksandr Starukh reported on Oct. 2. National Police Chief Ihor Klymenko said earlier that the attack had wounded 92 people. Among the killed were two children aged 11 and 14.
“The city and the region are shuddering from the horror of the cynical massacre of civilians,” Starukh said.