RUSSIA: The final Ukrainian foothold in an eastern province that is crucial to attaining one of the main objectives of its gruelling war was taken over by Russia on Sunday.
Although the president stated that the battle for the city was still going on, the military’s general staff of Ukraine declared that its soldiers had withdrawn from Lysychansk in the Luhansk province.
If verified, Russia’s total takeover of Luhansk would provide its forces a more powerful base from which to advance in the neighbouring Donetsk province and move them one step closer to fulfilling one of President Vladimir Putin’s main objectives: taking over the whole Donbas.
According to a ministry statement released on Sunday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed Putin that Russia’s forces, along with members of a local separatist militia, “had gained full authority over the city of Lysychansk” and now rule the entirety of Luhansk.
The Russian statement described the wins as “the liberation of the Luhansk People’s Republic,” as is customary with such claims.
Separatists in the Donbas region’s Luhansk and Donetsk, which have sizable Russian-speaking populations, proclaimed their independence from Kiev in 2014. Russia formally recognised their self-declared republics days before it invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Following the fall of nearby Sievierodoentsk last week, Ukrainian and Russian forces have been engaged in severe fighting for Lysychansk in recent days.
The military of Ukraine’s General Staff said on social media on Sunday night that its forces had left Lysychansk “to safeguard the lives of Ukrainian defenders.”
Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelenskyy claimed that Kyiv’s forces were still engaged in a risky and difficult battle with Russian troops on the city’s outskirts.
“We cannot give you the final judgment. Lysychansk is still being fought for,” Zelenskyy said in a statement.
He recognised that there is still a Russian military advantage there, describing it as a “weak spot” for the Ukrainian military.
As they advance their campaign in the Donbas, an area of mining and factories where Moscow-backed rebels have been battling Ukrainian forces since 2014, the Russians would gain more land if they took Lysychansk, from where they could step up their attacks on Donetsk.
What’s next for Ukraine
If Putin led government wins in the Donbas, Ukraine will lose not only territory but also likely the majority of its strongest armed forces, allowing Moscow to annex more area and increase its leverage over Kiev.
Russian soldiers have already targeted Slovyansk, a significant Ukrainian-held city in Donetsk, with rocket attacks. At least six people were killed in the attack, as per the reports.
According to the regional government, Kramatorsk, another significant city in the Donetsk region, also came under fire.
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese spent Sunday at a community close to the capital that suffered significant damage early in the conflict, far from the fighting in the east.
The destruction in Irpin was described as “devastating” by Albanese.
One of the four Russian military bases in the city, according to Melitopol’s exiled mayor, was destroyed by Ukrainian rockets on Sunday.
In a resurgence of occasional apparent Ukrainian strikes across the border, attacks were also reported inside Russia.
According to the governor of the western Russian region of Belgorod, Sunday’s deaths were caused by missile fragments from an intercepted Ukrainian rocket.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, two Ukrainian drones were shot down in the Russian city of Kursk.
According to Roman Starovoit, the governor of the Kursk area, mortar fire was directed at Tetkino, a town near the Ukrainian border.