Russia made progress towards its goal of seizing all of the contested eastern Ukraine. President Vladimir Putin attempted Saturday to shake European resolve not to sanction his country and continue supplying weapons to support Ukraine's defense.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Lyman, the second small Russian city, was "completely liberated" this week by a combined force of Russian soldiers with Kremlin-backed separatists. They have been fighting for eight years in the Donbas region, which borders Russia.
Ukraine's train system, which ferries arms and evacuates citizens through Lyman (a major railway hub in east Ukraine), has been a vital part of the country's rail network. It would also give Russia a foothold in the region. The railway system has bridges that can transport troops and equipment across the Siverskiy Donets River, which has so far been a hindrance to the Russian advance into Donbas.
Lyman has received mixed signals from Ukrainian officials. Donetsk Gov. Pavlo Kyrylenko claimed that most of the land was controlled by Russian troops and that they were trying to push their offensive towards Bakhmut, another town in the region. On Saturday, Hanna Malyar, Deputy Defense Minister, denied Moscow's claim Lyman was dead and said that fighting continued.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Ukrainian President, described the situation in eastern Ukraine as "very complex" and stated that the Russian army was trying to get at least some results by focusing its efforts there.
According to the Kremlin, Putin spoke to the leaders of France & Germany for 80 minutes Saturday. He warned against Western weapons transfers to Ukraine and blamed Western sanctions for the disruption of global food supplies.
According to the spokesperson for the chancellor, Olaf Scholz, German Chancellor, and Emmanuel Macron, French President, urged an immediate ceasefire and a withdrawal by Russian troops. They also called upon Putin to enter into direct negotiations with Zelenskyy to end the fighting.
According to a Kremlin readingout, Putin said that he had confirmed "the openness by the Russian side to resuming dialogue."
Russia's recent achievements in Donetsk (and Luhansk), the two regions that make up the Donbas could encourage Putin. Russia is determined to seize any remaining parts of the region that aren't controlled by separatists, after failing to occupy Kyiv.
The British Ministry of Defense stated in a Saturday assessment that "if Russia succeeded in taking over these regions, it would highly likely to be seen by Kremlin als a substantive political accomplishment and be portrayed before the Russian people as justifying invasion."
Russia is intensifying its efforts to capture Sievierodonetsk (and Lysychansk), which are the last areas of Ukrainian control in Luhansk.
Luhansk Gov. Serhii Haidai reported, however, that while Ukrainian fighters had repelled an attack on Sievierodonetsk's capital, Russian troops continued to push them around. He said that Russian forces had seize a hotel in the city's outskirts on Saturday.