Russia claims to have captured an important city in eastern Ukraine
KYIV, Ukraine – The Russian Defense Minister said that Russian forces have taken control of the last major city held by Ukraine in Ukraine’s Luhansk province, bringing Moscow closer to its stated goal of capturing the entire Ukrainian Donbas region.
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that the Russian military, along with members of the local separatist militia “has established full control over the city of Lysychansk,” Russian news agencies reported. .
Ukrainian fighters have spent weeks trying to secure Lysychansk and keep it from falling into Russian hands, as neighboring Sievierodonetsk did a week ago. A presidential adviser predicted late Saturday that the city’s fate could be determined within days.
Ukrainian officials did not provide immediate updates on its status.
Earlier on Sunday, the Luhansk governor said Russian forces were consolidating their positions in a tough fight to capture the last stronghold of resistance in the province.
“The occupiers threw all their forces into Lysychansk. They attacked the city with incomprehensible cruel tactics,” Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said on the Telegram messaging app. “They suffered significant losses, but still went forward tenaciously. They are gaining a strong foothold in the city.”
A river separates Lysychansk from Sievierodonetsk. Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the President of Ukraine, said in an online interview late Saturday that Russian forces had crossed the river from the north for the first time, creating a “threatening” situation.
Arestovych says they have not yet reached the city center but the course of the fighting suggests the battle for Lysychansk will be decided on Monday.
Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk are the two provinces that make up the Donbas, where Russia has focused its offensive since withdrawing from northern Ukraine and the capital Kyiv in the spring.
Pro-Russian separatists have held parts of both eastern provinces since 2014, and Moscow recognizes all of Luhansk and Donetsk as sovereign republics. The Syrian government said on Wednesday that it would also recognize the “independence and sovereignty” of the two regions.
Taking Lysychansk would open the way for the Russians to move westward into Donetsk province, where the sizable Ukrainian city of Slovyansk has been hit by rockets multiple times since Russia invaded Ukraine on the 24th. February.
In another turn of the war, the exiled mayor of the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol on Sunday said Ukrainian missiles had destroyed one of four Russian military bases in the city.
The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukraine also carried out missile and drone strikes in western Russia, on the cities of Kursk and Belgorod, but aerial weapons were shot down. The governor of the Kursk region, Roman Starovoit, said the town of Tetkino, on the Ukrainian border, had been hit by mortar fire.
The leader of neighboring Belarus, an ally of Russia, announced on Saturday that Ukraine had fired missiles at military targets on the territory of Belarus a few days ago but all were intercepted by a system. air room. President Alexander Lukashenko described the alleged attack as an act of provocation and noted that no Belarusian soldiers were involved in the fighting in Ukraine.
There was no immediate response from the Ukrainian military.
Belarus has Russian military units and was used as a base for the Russian invasion. Last week, just hours before Lukashenko met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian long-range bombers fired missiles at Ukraine for the first time from Belarusian airspace.
Lukashenko has so far resisted attempts to involve his army in the war. But during their meeting, Putin announced that Russia plans to supply Belarus with the Iskander-M missile system and reminded Lukashenko that his government depends on economic support from Russia.
Ebel reports from Prokovsk, Ukraine.
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