Russia’s retreat from northeastern Ukraine in recent weeks has revealed evidence of widespread routine torture of both civilians and soldiers.

KYIV, Ukraine — Russia attacked the Ukrainian president’s hometown and other targets Sunday with suicide drones, and Ukraine regained full control of a strategic eastern city in a counteroffensive that changed the war.

Russia’s loss of the eastern city of Liman, which it used as a transport and logistics hub, is a fresh blow to the Kremlin, which is seeking to escalate the war through illegally annexed four regions of Ukraine and increasing threats to use nuclear force.

The seizure of land by Russian President Vladimir Putin threatens to push the conflict to a dangerous new level. It also prompted Ukraine to formally apply for early NATO membership.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced on Sunday that his forces were now in control of the Liman: “As of 12:30 p.m. (09:30 GMT), the Liman is completely cleared. Thank you to our military, our soldiers,” he said in a video message.

The Russian military did not comment on the situation in Lyman on Sunday, announcing on Saturday that it was withdrawing its forces to better positions.

The British military described Lyman’s repulse as a “significant political setback” for Moscow, and Ukraine appeared to be quick to capitalize on its gains.

Hours after Zelenskyi’s announcement, Ukrainian media shared an image of Ukrainian soldiers carrying the country’s yellow and blue flag in front of a statue marking the village of Torskoe, 15 kilometers (9 miles) east of Liman and within sight of Russian-controlled Luhansk Oblast.

Soon after, a video was posted online that showed one Ukrainian soldier saying that Kyiv forces had begun shelling the town of Kremen, which is just over the border in Luhansk. Artillery could be heard retreating in the background. Russian military correspondents also recognized the Ukrainian attacks on Kremen.

In another online photo, a Ukrainian soldier stood in front of a giant watermelon monument south of the village of Novavarantsovka on the banks of the Dnieper, along the Russian-controlled northern edge of Kherson Oblast. The Ukrainian flag was flying above the statue, and several apparently deactivated mines lay next to it.

While the Ukrainian forces did not immediately recognize the breakthrough, authors close to the Russian military describe a new offensive by Kiev in the Kherson region.

In the south of Ukraine, Zielensky’s hometown of Kryva Rog was attacked Russian drone attack that destroyed two floors of the school early Sunday, the regional governor said. Ukraine’s air force said it shot down five Iranian-made drones overnight on Sunday, and two more broke through anti-aircraft defenses.

A car carrying four men foraging for mushrooms in Ukraine’s Chernihiv region hit a landmine, killing everyone inside, reports said Sunday.

Reports of hostilities could not be verified immediately.

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Ukrainian troops have retaken swaths of territory, particularly in the northeast around Kharkiv, in a counteroffensive in recent weeks that has embarrassed the Kremlin and sparked rare domestic criticism of Putin’s war.

Liman, which Ukraine recaptured by encircling Russian troops, is in Donetsk region near the border with Luhansk, two of four regions that Russia illegally annexed on Friday after forcing the rest of the population to vote in referendums at gunpoint.

In his night address, Zelensky said: “Over the past week, more Ukrainian flags have appeared in Donbass. There will be more in a week.”

During a daily intelligence briefing on Sunday, Britain’s Ministry of Defense described Lyman as important because it has “a key route across the Seversky Danets River along which Russia is trying to consolidate its defences”.

Russia’s retreat from northeastern Ukraine in recent weeks has revealed evidence of widespread, routine torture of both civilians and soldiers, particularly in the strategic city of Izyum. Associated Press investigation found.

AP reporters discovered 10 torture sites in the city, including a deep pit in a residential area, a dank underground prison that smelled of urine, a medical clinic and a kindergarten.

Recent events have raised fears of a full-scale conflict between Russia and the West.

Putin views Ukraine’s recent advances — along with post-Soviet NATO expansion — as a US-orchestrated attempt to destroy Russia, and last week he increased threats of nuclear power in its harshest, most anti-Western rhetoric to date.

Nine NATO members from Central and Eastern Europe, fearing that Russia’s aggression may eventually be directed at them, sent a letter of support to Ukraine on Sunday.

The leaders of the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania and Slovakia issued a joint statement on Sunday in which they supported Ukraine’s path to NATO membership and called on all 30 members of the US-led security bloc to increase their military help to Kiev.

The Minister of Defense of Germany on Sunday announced the delivery of 16 Slovak-made wheeled armored howitzers to Ukraine next year. The weapons will be financed jointly with Denmark, Norway and Germany,

On Sunday, Russia moved forward with moves to make its land grab look like a legal process aimed at helping people allegedly persecuted by Kiev, with approval from the Constitutional Court and passage of bills through the Kremlin-friendly parliament.

Outside Russia, the Kremlin’s actions were widely condemned as a violation of international law, and several EU countries summoned Russian ambassadors after Putin signed annexation deals with Moscow-backed officials in southern and eastern Ukraine on Friday.

Meanwhile, international concern about the fate of Europe’s largest nuclear power plant is growing Russian forces detained its director for alleged interrogation.

The International Atomic Energy Agency reported on Sunday that its Director General Rafael Grossi will visit Kyiv and Moscow in the coming days to discuss the situation surrounding the Zaporizhia NPP. Grossi continues to insist on a “nuclear safety zone” around the site.

The Zaporozhye plant is located in one of the four regions illegally annexed by Moscow on Friday, and has repeatedly come under the crossfire of the war. Ukrainian specialists continued to operate the plant after it was seized by Russian forces, but its last reactor was shut down in September as a precaution.

Pope Francis on Sunday condemned Russia’s nuclear threats and appealed to Putin to stop “this spiral of violence and death.”