Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — Russia attacked the Ukrainian president’s hometown and other targets Sunday with suicide drones, and Ukraine regained full control of the strategic eastern city in a war-changing counteroffensive.

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

Russian President Vladimir Putin’s land grab threatens to take 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 are now in control of the Liman: “As of 12:30, 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 Zelensky’s announcement, Ukrainian media released an image of Ukrainian soldiers carrying the country’s yellow-and-blue flag in front of a statue marking the village of Torskoe, nine 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 River, 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 southern Ukraine, Zelenskyi’s hometown of Kryvyi Rih was hit by a Russian suicide drone attack that destroyed two floors of a school early Sunday, the region’s 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.

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”.

Recent developments have raised fears of an all-out conflict between Russia and the West.

Putin sees Ukraine’s recent advances — along with post-Soviet NATO expansion — as a US-orchestrated attempt to destroy Russia, and last week he stepped up threats to use nuclear force in his harshest and most anti-Western rhetoric to date.