Lyman, a key supply hub in eastern Ukraine, has been “fully cleared” of Russian forces, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday, as Western countries cast the troops’ withdrawal as a strategic victory that could undermine Russia’s effort to control the Donetsk region. Donetsk is one of four Ukrainian regions that Russia claimed it annexed after staged referendums, in violation of international law and despite widespread global criticism. Russia, meanwhile, is looking ahead to next steps after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the annexations.

The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog called for Russian forces to release the director of the Zaporizhzhia power plant, Europe’s largest nuclear facility.

Russia’s pullout from Lyman “represents a significant political setback” for Moscow, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Sunday, “given that it is located within … a region Russia supposedly aimed to ‘liberate’ and has attempted to illegally annex.” Within Russia, the Lyman retreat prompted another wave of public criticism of the country’s military leadership, the ministry added. U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Saturday hailed Ukraine’s apparent retaking of Lyman as a “significant success,” according to Reuters, that could make it “more difficult” for Russia to resupply troops in southern and western Ukraine.

Russia is taking procedural steps to annex Ukrainian territories, with its Constitutional Court ruling that so-called treaties on the annexation of Zaporizhzhia, Kherson, Donetsk and Luhansk were consistent with the Russian constitution. The documents are expected to pass through both houses of Russia’s rubber-stamp parliament Monday and Tuesday, after which Russia will consider annexation to be complete. Zelensky called Russia’s staged referendums in Donbas an “absolute farce.”... Read More: Washington Post