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Ukraine encircles Russian forces near Donetsk, overshadowing Moscow's annexation of the region

Kyiv, Ukraine CNN  — 

Ukrainian forces are encircling Russian troops in Russian-occupied Lyman, in the Kramatorsk district of Donetsk, despite Moscow’s annexation of the region that’s been declared illegal by the West.

Ukrainian forces have entered Stavky, a village neighboring Lyman, according to Serhii Cherevatyi, the military spokesperson for the eastern grouping of Ukrainian forces.

“The Russian group in the area of Lyman is surrounded. The settlements of Yampil, Novoselivka, Shandryholove, Drobysheve, and Stavky are liberated. Stabilization measures are ongoing there,” Cherevatyi said in a televised press conference on Saturday.

“[The liberation] of Lyman is important, because it is another step towards the liberation of the Ukrainian Donbas. This is an opportunity to go further to Kreminna and Severodonetsk. Therefore, in turn, it is psychologically very important,” he said.

Cherevatyi said the Ukrainian troops actions are setting the tone to “break the course of these hostilities.”

He added that there had been “many killed and wounded,” but could not provide any further details, noting that the “operation is not yet complete.”

Russia has used Lyman as a logistical hub for its operations in the region; its fall would mark Ukraine’s most significant gain since its successful counteroffensive in the northeastern Kharkiv region last month.

The head of Luhansk regional military administration Serhiy Hayday also revealed Saturday further details of the Lyman offensive, suggesting Russian forces had offered to retreat, but to no avail from the Ukrainian side.

“Occupiers asked [their command] for possibility to retreat, and they have been refused. Accordingly, they have two options. No, they actually have three options. Try to break through, surrender, or everyone there will die,” Hayday said.

“There are several thousand of them. Yes, about 5,000. There is no exact number yet. Five thousand is still a colossal grouping. There has never been such a large group in the encirclement before. All routes for the supply of ammunition or the retreat of the group are all completely blocked,” he added.

Images obtained by CNN show Ukrainian forces in control of rural areas of Donetsk around the contested town of Lyman.

Yurii Mysiagin, Ukrainian member of Parliament and deputy head of the parliament’s committee on national security, referenced the move into Stavky on Saturday by publishing a video on Telegram showing a Ukrainian tank moving up the road with a clear sign indicating the region of Stavky. CNN could not independently verify the original source or the date.

There has been no official Russian response to the fighting in the region.

On Friday Ukrainian forces claimed control over the village of Drobysheve, in the Donetsk region, the settlement that neighbours Russian-occupied Lyman.

The developments come as Russian President Vladimir Putin announced Friday that Russia would seize nearly a fifth of Ukraine, declaring that the millions of people living there would be Russian citizens “forever.”

Under the annexation process, which is regarded by the West as illegal, Moscow now recognizes four Ukrainian regions as Russian territory: Luhansk and Donetsk – home to two Russian-backed breakaway republics where fighting has been ongoing since 2014 – as well as Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, two areas in southern Ukraine that have been occupied by Russian forces since shortly after the invasion began.