LYMAN, Ukraine (AP) – Russian troops left a key Ukrainian city so quickly they left the bodies of their comrades in the streets, offering more evidence Tuesday of Moscow’s latest military defeat as it struggles to hang on to four regions of Ukraine, that it illegally annexed last week.
Meanwhile, Russia’s upper house of parliament has rubber-stamped the annexations following “referendums” that Ukraine and its Western allies have dismissed as fraudulent.
In response to the move, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy formally ruled out negotiations with Russia, declaring that negotiations with Russian President Vladimir Putin are impossible following his decision to take over the regions.
The Kremlin responded by saying it will wait for Ukraine to agree to sit down for talks, noting that may not happen until a new Ukrainian president takes office.
“We will wait for the sitting president to change his position or wait for a future Ukrainian president who will revise his position in the interests of the Ukrainian people,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Despite the Kremlin’s apparent political bravado, the image on the ground underscored the disarray Putin faces amid Ukrainian advances and attempts to establish new Russian borders.
Over the weekend, Russian troops withdrew from Lyman, a strategic eastern city that the Russians had used as a logistics and transport hub, to avoid being encircled by Ukrainian forces. The city’s liberation gave Ukraine an important vantage point from which to press its offensive deeper into Russian-controlled territories.
Two days later, an Associated Press team reporting from Lyman saw at least 18 bodies of Russian soldiers still on the ground. The Ukrainian military appeared to have collected the bodies of their comrades after fierce fighting for control of the citybut they did not immediately remove the Russians.
“We are fighting for our country, for our children, so that our people can live better, but all this comes at a very high price,” said a Ukrainian soldier who goes by the nom de guerre Rud.
Zelenskyy, speaking late Tuesday in his overnight video speech, said dozens of settlements had been repeated “from the Russian pseudo-referendum this week alone” in the four annexed regions. In the Kherson region, he listed eight villages that Ukrainian forces recaptured, “and this is far from a complete list. Our soldiers are not stopping.”
The deputy head of the Russian-backed Kherson regional administration, Kirill Stremousov, told Russian TV that Ukrainian troops were making “certain advances” from the north and attacking the region from other sides. He said they were stopped by Russian forces and suffered heavy casualties.
As Kiev pressed its counteroffensives, Russian forces launched several missile strikes against Ukrainian cities.
Several missiles hit Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, damaging infrastructure and causing power outages. Kharkiv Governor Oleh Syniehubov said one person was killed. In the south, Russian missiles hit the city of Nikopol.
After regaining control of Lyman in the Donetsk region, Ukrainian forces pushed further east and may have gone as far as the border with nearby Luhansk region as they advanced toward Kreminna, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War in his latest analysis. .
On Monday, Ukrainian forces also made significant progress in the south, raising flags over the villages of Arkhanhelske, Myroliubivka, Khreshchenivka, Mykhalivka and Novovorontsovka.
In Washington, the U.S. government announced Tuesday that it would give Ukraine an additional $625 million in military aid, including more of the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, credited with helping Kiev’s recent military momentum. The package also includes ammunition for artillery systems and armored vehicles.
Before that announcement, Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Yevhen Perebyinis told a conference in the Turkish capital, Ankara, on Tuesday that Ukraine needed more weapons since Russia began a partial mobilization of men in their prime last month. He said additional weapons would help end the war more quickly, not escalate it.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the military has recruited more than 200,000 reservists as part of the partial mobilization launched two weeks ago. He said the recruits were undergoing training at 80 shooting ranges before being deployed to the front lines in Ukraine.
Putin’s mobilization order said up to 300,000 reservists would be called up, but it left the door open for an even larger activation. The order sparked protests across Russia and drove tens of thousands of men to flee the country.
Russia’s efforts to incorporate the four embattled regions in Ukraine’s east and south were made so hastily that even the exact boundaries of the areas absorbed were unclear.
The upper house of the Russian parliament, the Federation Council, voted to ratify treaties to make eastern Donetsk and Luhansk and southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions part of Russia. The House of Commons did so on Monday.
Putin is expected to quickly approve the annexation treaties.
In other developments, the head of the company that runs Europe’s largest nuclear power plant said Ukraine is considering restarting the Russian-occupied facility to ensure its safety as winter approaches.
In an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday, Energoatom President Petro Kotin said the company could restart two of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant’s reactors within days.
“If you have a low temperature, you just freeze everything inside. The safety equipment will be damaged,” he said.
Fears that the war in Ukraine could cause a radiation leak at the Zaporizhzhia plant had prompted the shutdown of its remaining reactors. The facility has been damaged by shelling, sparking international alarm over the potential for disaster.
Adam Schreck reported from Kiev.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine