UPDATED: Zelenskiy declares key town of Lyman ‘fully cleared’ of Russian forces

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KYIV, Oct 2 (Reuters) – Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy declared the key eastern town of Lyman “fully cleared” of Russian forces on Sunday, a day after Moscow said its troops had decided to withdraw from their months-long stronghold in the north of Donetsk region.

“As of 1230 (0930 GMT), Lyman is fully cleared,” Zelenskiy said in a short video clip on his Telegram channel.

Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region, said that the retaking of Lyman in the neighbouring Donetsk region is one of the key factors for reclaiming lost territory in Luhansk.

“The liberation of this city in the Donetsk region is one of the key factors for the further de-occupation of the Luhansk region,” Gaidai wrote on the Telegram messaging app.

Luhansk and Donetsk provinces comprise Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, where heavy fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces has been going on for months.

Ukrainian troops said they had retaken the key bastion of Lyman in occupied eastern Ukraine, a stinging defeat that prompted a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin to call for the possible use of low-grade nuclear weapons.

The capture on Saturday came just a day after Putin proclaimed the annexation of nearly a fifth of Ukraine – including Donetsk, where Lyman is located – and placed the regions under Russia’s nuclear umbrella. Kyiv and the West condemned the ornate ceremony as an illegitimate farce.

In Other Developments:

LYMAN

* Russia said its troops had withdrawn from Lyman to avoid being surrounded by Ukraine’s army.

* Ramzan Kadyrov, a Putin ally and head of Russia’s Chechnya region, said Moscow should consider using a low-yield nuclear weapon in Ukraine after the loss of Lyman.

* U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin cheered Lyman’s capture, saying it was an encouraging battlefield success and that the loss of the logistics and transport hub will pose a dilemma for Russia’s military.

ZAPORIZHZHIA

* A Russian patrol detained the director general of Ukraine’s Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the state-owned company in charge of the plant said. The United Nations nuclear watchdog said Russia had confirmed the move.

* International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Grossi is expected to hold talks in Moscow and Kyiv in coming days on the creation of a protection zone around the Russian-held Zaporizhzhia plant, the U.N. watchdog said.

CASUALTIES

* Ukraine’s SBU security service said at least 20 civilians were killed in Russian shelling of a civilian convoy in late September in an eastern “grey zone” between Russian- and Ukrainian-controlled territory.

GAS FLOWS

* Italy’s Eni ENI.MI said it would not receive any of the gas it had requested from Russia’s Gazprom GAZP.MM for delivery on Saturday, but the firms said they were working to fix this.

* Greece and Bulgaria started commercial operation of a long-delayed gas pipeline that will help decrease southeast Europe’s dependence on Russian gas and boost energy security.

* Russia’s Gazprom cut natural gas supplies to Moldova on Saturday by around 30%, said the director of gas firm Moldovagaz, Vadim Ceban.

DIPLOMACY

* Russia failed to win enough votes for re-election to the U.N. aviation agency’s governing council, in a boost for Western powers that wanted to hold Moscow accountable following its invasion of Ukraine.

* Germany will deliver the first of four advanced IRIS-T air defence systems to Ukraine in the coming days to help ward off drone attacks, Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said during an unannounced visit to Odesa.

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