The ghostly emptiness of the streets of Lyman in eastern Ukraine belies this city’s strategic significance.
There is no sign of Russian troops at all – few damaged Russian tanks, or Russian dead, or Russian prisoners. Members of the Ukrainian National Guard from the Dnipro-1 unit hover in small numbers on some streets.
The occasional rattle of gunfire, or thud of artillery, pierces the silence. A few locals emerge, riding bicycles, searching for food, bewildered about what is happening.
“One day I wear one cap, another day a different cap”, said one woman in tears, pretending to take off a hat.
“How can we live like this”, she said, referring to the changing control of the town.
CNN were likely the first media into the recently liberated city, arriving thirty minutes after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky declared the town completely cleared of Russians troops.
Ukrainian officials and troops had spoken repeatedly of large numbers of Moscow’s better units being trapped there. Yet on Sunday there were few signs of encirclement to be seen.
Some officials said Russian corpses had already been cleared away, and prisoners removed. But locals offered another explanation: that Russian forces had left the city on Friday in an orderly fashion.
“They got on their tanks, and drove out”, said Tanya, riding her bicycle back to the bomb shelter, where she still spends the nights with 15 others.
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