By ADAM SCHRECK and VASILISA STEPANENKO
LYMAN, Ukraine (AP) — The bodies of Russian soldiers were lying in the streets of a key eastern Ukrainian city on Tuesday following their comrades’ retreat that marked the latest defeat for Moscow even as Russia’s upper house of parliament was set to rubber-stamp the annexation of Ukrainian regions on Tuesday.
Russian troops pulled back from Lyman over the weekend to avoid being encircled by Ukrainian forces. The city’s liberation gave Ukraine a key vantage point for pressing its offensive deeper into Russian-held territories.
The Ukrainian military collected the bodies of their comrades after fierce battles for control of Lyman, a key logistics and transport hub, but did not immediately remove those of the Russians.
“We fight for our land, for our children, so that our people can live better, but all this comes at a very high price,” said a Ukrainian soldier who goes by the nom de guerre Rud.
Lyman residents emerged the basements where they had hidden during the battle for control of the city and built bonfires for cooking. The city has had no water, electricity or gas since May.
A 85-year-old, who identified herself by her name and patronymic, Valentyna Kuzmichna, recalled a recent explosion nearby.
“I was standing in the hall, about 5 meters away, when it boomed,” she said. “God forbid, now I can’t hear well.”
The Russian forces launched more missile strikes at Ukrainian cities on Tuesday as Ukrainian forces pressed their counteroffensives in the east and the south.
Several missiles hit Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, damaging its infrastructure and causing power cuts. Kharkiv Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said one person was killed and at least two others, including a 9-year-old girl, were wounded.
In the south, four civilians were injured when Russian missiles struck the city of Nikopol.
After reclaiming control of Lyman in the Donetsk region, the Ukrainian forces pushed further east and may have gone as far as the border of the neighboring Luhansk region as they advance toward Kreminna, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War said in its latest analysis of the combat situation.
On Monday, Ukrainian forces also scored significant gains in the south, raising flags over the villages of Arkhanhelske, Myroliubivka, Khreshchenivka, Mykhalivka and Novovorontsovka.
The Ukrainian successes in the east and the south came even as Russia moved to absorb four Ukrainian regions amid the fighting there.
The upper house of Russian parliament, the Federation Council, voted Tuesday to ratify treaties to make the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk and the southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions part of Russia.
The lower house had quickly rubber-stamped the accession pacts after last week’s Kremlin-orchestrated annexation “referendums” that Ukraine and its Western allies have dismissed as illegal and fraudulent.
Russian President Vladimir Putin is expected to quickly endorse the annexation treaties.
Russia’s moves to incorporate the Ukrainian regions have been done so hastily that even the exact borders of the territories being absorbed were unclear.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday that Donetsk and Luhansk are joining Russia with the same administrative borders that existed before a conflict erupted there in 2014 between pro-Russian separatists and Ukrainian forces. He said the borders of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson are still undecided.
But a senior Russian lawmaker offered a different view. Pavel Krasheninnikov said Zaporizhzhia will be absorbed within its “administrative borders,” meaning Moscow plans to incorporate parts of the region still under Kyiv’s control. He said similar logic will apply to Kherson, but that Russia will include two districts of the neighboring Mykolaiv region that are now occupied by Russia.
Schreck reported from Kyiv.
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