Moscow's withdrawal from Lyman represents a "significant political setback" and drew public criticism in Russia because the city is in Donetsk Oblast, a top-priority Ukraine region Russia is attempting to "liberate," the British Defense Ministry said in its latest war assessment.
In a Sunday video address, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced Ukraine had regained full control of Lyman, which Russia had used as a transport and logistics hub.
"Thank you to our militaries, our warriors," he said.
Ramzan Kadyrov, leader of the southern Russian republic of Chechnya, wrote on Telegram that Russian military leader Colonel-General Alexander Lapin should be fired after Saturday's retreat.
"It is not necessary to make every decision with an eye on the Western, American community," Kadyrov said in Telegram post. "Yesterday, the parade in Izium, today the flag in Lyman, and tomorrow what? Everything would be fine if it wasn't so bad."
Yevgeny Prigozhin, a friend of Russian President Vladimir Putin who leads mercenaries fighting for Russia in the war, suggested Russia send some leaders "barefoot with machine guns to the front."
RUSSIAN TROOPS FORCED TO RETREAT: Russia abandons annexed city as Ukraine pushes forward
►After Zelenskyy's announcement, a video posted online showed one Ukrainian soldier saying that Kyiv's forces had begun to target the city of Kreminna, just across the border in Luhansk in eastern Ukraine. Russian military correspondents also acknowledged Ukrainian attacks targeting Kreminna.
►The Ukrainian military said it shot down eight of Russia's Iranian-built drones, seven tanks and an ammunition warehouse on Sunday.
►German Defense Minister Christine Lambrecht pledged delivery of 16 wheeled armored howitzers produced in Slovakia to Ukraine next year. They will be produced in Slovakia and financed jointly with Denmark, Norway and Germany.
►The Russian retreat from northeast Ukraine in recent weeks has revealed evidence of widespread, routine torture of both civilians and soldiers, notably in the strategic city of Izium, an Associated Press investigation has found.
Ukraine military boss grateful for American support
Ukraine Gen. Valerii Zaluzhnyi, commander in chief of his nation's armed forces, said he discussed his weaponry needs Sunday with Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. The call came days after Congress voted to provide $12 billion to Ukraine. U.S. weaponry has been key to success Ukraine's military has gained over the past month.
"I am sincerely grateful to the entire American people and its leaders for the consistent and unwavering support of Ukraine in this hard time," Zaluzhnyi said on Telegram.
Zelenskyy's hometown draws Russian drone strikes
The hometown of Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy was attacked by suicide drones Sunday as Russia struck back against the effective Ukrainian counteroffensive that has pushed its troops back from thousands of miles of land they had occupied for months.
The southern town of Krivyi Rih came under Russian attack by a suicide drone that destroyed two stories of a school early Sunday, said Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region. The Ukrainian air force said Sunday that it shot down five Iranian-made drones overnight but that two others made it through air defenses.
The attack came one day after Ukrainian troops forced Russian troops to withdraw from Lyman, a strategic Donbas region city located in one of four areas incorporated by Russia on Friday.
"Russia staged a farce in Donbas," Zelenskyy said Sunday. "And now Ukrainian flags are flying there."
NATO leader issues warnings on pipeline sabotage, nuclear war
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Sunday that damage to two Nord Stream gas pipelines appears to be sabotage and that "any deliberate attack on critical NATO infrastructure will be met with a firm and united response from NATO."
Stoltenberg, speaking on NBC's "Meet the Press," also described nuclear war rhetoric from President Vladimir Putin as dangerous and reckless – but nothing new.
"That doesn't change the fact that this is dangerous," Stoltenberg said. "That's also a reason why we have so clearly conveyed to President Putin that any use of nuclear weapons will have severe consequences for Russia ... (and) totally change the nature of the conflict."
Pope Francis urges Putin to halt 'spiral of violence and death'
Pope Francis on Sunday appealed to Russian President Vladimir Putin for a cease-fire, imploring him to “stop this spiral of violence and death” in Ukraine and denouncing the “absurd” risks of nuclear war. Francis uttered his strongest plea yet about the 7-month-old "horror.” The pope, speaking to a Sunday crowd at St. Peter's Square. also called on Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy to “be open” to serious peace proposals.
“How the war is going in Ukraine has become so grave, devastating and threatening that it sparks great worry,” Francis said.
9 EU countries issue statement in support of EU membership for Ukraine
Leaders of nine Eastern European nations released a statement Sunday reiterating support for Ukraine membership in the European Union and saying they will "never" recognize Russia's claim to four regions of the invaded country.
"We support Ukraine in its defense against Russian invasion, we demand that Russia immediately withdraw its troops from all occupied territories, and we call on all members of the Alliance to significantly increase military assistance to Ukraine," said the statement signed by Poland, Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Slovakia. "All those who commit crimes of aggression must be held accountable and brought to justice."
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Ukraine updates: Moscow's retreat draws angry criticism in Russia