Ukraine live briefing: Lyman retreat buoys Ukrainian advance as Russian lawmakers approve annexations

A Ukrainian truck stuck in mud on the road to Lyman, Ukraine, on Monday.
A Ukrainian truck stuck in mud on the road to Lyman, Ukraine, on Monday. (Wojciech Grzedzinski/For The Washington Post)

Following the recapture of the strategic town of Lyman, Ukraine on Monday continued to push toward retaking occupied territory, even as Russia conceded it did not know the precise borders of its new territories because it does not fully control them.

Recent advances have put Ukrainian forces in a strong position to attack Luhansk, on of the four regions Russia’s lower house of parliament voted to annex on Monday, formalizing the illegal takeover of Ukrainian territory that began with staged referendums last month.

Here’s the latest on the war and its ripple effects across the globe.

Key developments

  • Five Azov fighters who were recently released by Russia were reunited with family members in Turkey on Monday, Andriy Yermak, Zelensky’s chief of staff, confirmed. In his Monday address, Zelensky vowed to “do everything” to reunite Ukrainians still being held by Russia with their family.
  • The director of the Zaporizhzhia power plant, Ihor Murashov, was released from detention, Ukraine’s nuclear operator Energoatom confirmed in a statement on Monday. The agency thanked the International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Grossi for his efforts to secure the release of Murashov, who was detained on Friday. In his nightly address on Sunday, Zelensky called Murashov’s detention “frank Russian terror."
  • Russia’s so-called annexation treaties unanimously passed the rubber-stamp lower house, the State Duma, on Monday. The upper house, Russia’s Federation Council, is expected to formalize the annexation, a violation of international law, on Tuesday. Western leaders have denounced last month’s orchestrated annexation votes in the regions as a “sham.”
  • The Kremlin said Russia would “consult” with the populations of Zaporizhzhia and Kherson to determine the exact borders of the territories Moscow hopes to absorb as its own. Presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a news conference that the outcome in those regions “will depend on the will of the people living there.”
  • Elon Musk took aim at the Russia-Ukraine war via a Twitter poll that set off a firestorm online, drawing in Ukrainian diplomats, Russian officials, fans of the billionaire entrepreneur and even a couple of presidents. Ukraine’s ambassador to Germany, Andrij Melnyk, tweeted back at Musk, “F--- off is my very diplomatic reply to you.”

Battleground updates

  • Ukrainian forces pushed Russians back 20 miles along the west bank of the Dnieper River over the weekend, part of an initiative to retake Kherson. The strategic city has been under Russian control for months.
  • Russian officials are probably struggling to provide training and find officers to lead new units amid Russian President Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilization, the British Defense Ministry said Monday, noting dysfunction in the effort’s first week. “Local officials are likely unclear on the exact scope and legal rationale of the campaign,” it said.
  • In his Monday briefing, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said, “With numerically superior tank units in the direction of Zolota Balka and Oleksandrivka, the enemy managed to forge deep into our defenses,” the Associated Press reported. The Defense Ministry of Ukraine said later Monday that Zolota Balka, a village in Kherson, “has been liberated.”
  • Rockets struck the city of Zaporizhzhia and two nearby villages early Monday, the regional governor, Oleksandr Starukh, reported on Telegram. The strikes injured one person and damaged a rehabilitation center for children with special needs, he said. The Washington Post could not immediately verify this claim.
  • Parts of the Mykolaiv region remain under “constant fire,” regional governor Vitaliy Kim said Monday on Telegram, reporting shelling in multiple towns in the past 24 hours. The strikes did not injure or kill anyone, Kim said, but civilian infrastructure, including a train station, was hit.
  • Pro-Kremlin proxies and propagandists are becoming increasingly vocal in their criticism of Russia’s military in the wake of the Lyman retreat. Some are blaming the setbacks on Russian military failures to properly supply and reinforce troops, the Institute for the Study of War think tank wrote on Monday, and are no longer concealing their disappointment with the conduct of the partial mobilization.

Global impact

  • The European Union signed a memorandum of understanding with Ukraine on Monday to provide some $4.9 billion in long-term loans, E.U. Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis said in a tweet. Officials in Kyiv have spoken out against delays in financial assistance, with Oleg Ustenko, economic adviser to Zelensky, telling Politico, their “minister of finance is under extreme high pressure, when he sends these checks to the military, to pension funds ... something like one week or several weeks’ delay is just not acceptable.”
  • Denmark said the Nord Stream gas leaks in its waters are under control. Roughly a week after pipelines built to deliver gas from Russia to Europe were damaged in mysterious explosions and began leaking methane into the Baltic Sea in three separate places, the Danish energy agency tweeted that Nord Stream’s operator said “a stable pressure now appears to have been achieved on the two Nord Stream 1 pipelines.”
  • The Joint Expeditionary Force group of Northern European nations is set to meet virtually to discuss undersea pipeline safety on Monday. British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Britain, which called the meeting with the Netherlands, would dedicate two specialist ships to protect undersea cables and wires, including the first “multi-role survey ship for seabed warfare,” the Associated Press reported.

From our correspondents

The Ukrainian soldiers waved, hooted and raised their fists in triumph as they drove out of the strategic eastern city of Lyman on Monday, riding M113 armored personnel vehicles provided by Western countries. They passed eight corpses of enemy Russian soldiers who died trying to run from a Ukrainian counteroffensive that swept through the area and is still going, putting the lie to President Vladimir Putin’s annexation claims.

Sitting atop a tank several yards away, Leonid, a soldier with Ukraine’s National Guard, pondered Russia’s plans to send more 300,000 more men to Ukraine. “They’re going to need a bigger grave,” Leonid said.

Just two days after Ukrainian troops claimed victory in Lyman, a city of 22,000 that the Russians had used as a vital transport hub in Ukraine’s Donetsk region, there was almost no military presence left there — a sign of how quickly Ukrainian forces are advancing after months of incremental gains, if any. After Moscow’s “partial mobilization” intended to call up to 300,000 new troops, Kyiv appears to be making a major push to recapture as much occupied territory as it can before those reinforcements arrive.