A new operational defeat for Russia’s forces — this time in a strategic eastern Ukrainian town — casts further doubt on the "forever” annexation of four occupied regions by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Outnumbered and increasingly encircled by Kyiv’s forces, several thousand Russian troops withdrew from Lyman in Donetsk province over the weekend.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said the troops were moving "to more favorable positions.” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Sunday declared the town, a key logistics hub for Moscow’s troops, "fully cleared.”