Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Sunday admitted Kyiv’s forces had withdrawn Lysychansk in the East Donbass the area after the onslaught of Russia, but claimed to regain control of the area with the help of Western long-range weapons.
Russia says capturing the city of Lysychansk less than a week after capturing neighboring Sievierdonetsk has given it full control of the eastern region of Luhansk – a political victory that meets its key war goals. Kremlin. The focus of the battle is now on the neighboring Donetsk region, where Kyiv still controls territories.
“If the commanders of our army withdraw from certain points on the front, where the enemy has the greatest advantage in firepower, and this also applies to Lysychansk, then that only means one thing,” Zelenskiy said in his nightly video speech.
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“We will return with our tactics, thanks to the increase in the supply of modern weapons.”
Zelenskiy said that Russia is focusing its fire on the Donbas front, but Ukraine will fight back with long-range weapons such as HIMARS missile launchers provided by the US.
“The fact that we protect the lives of our soldiers, our people, plays an equally important role. We will rebuild the walls, we will get the land back, and above all people must be protected,” Zelenskiy said.
Since abandoning its assault on the capital Kyiv, Russia has focused its military campaign on the industrial heart of Donbas that includes the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting with Ukraine since 2014.
Russia says it is occupying the Luhansk region to hand it over to the self-proclaimed Russian-backed Luhansk People’s Republic, where it recognized independence on the eve of the war.
Russian Defense Ministry Sergei Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin that Luhansk had been “liberated”, the ministry said, after Russia earlier said its forces had captured villages around Lysychansk and including city siege.
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Ukraine’s military command said its forces were forced to withdraw from the city.
“Continuing to defend the city will lead to deadly consequences. In order to preserve the lives of the Ukrainian defenders, a decision has been made to withdraw troops,” it said in a statement on social media.
Ukrainian officials, who say references to “liberating” Ukrainian territory are Russian propaganda, have reported intense shelling of residential areas.
In western Lysychansk in the Donetsk region, at least six people were killed when the Ukrainian city of Sloviansk came under intense shelling from multiple rocket launchers, local officials said.
Thousands of civilians have been killed and cities razed since Russia’s invasion on February 24, with Kyiv accusing Moscow of deliberately targeting civilians. Moscow denies this.
Russia says what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine aimed at protecting Russian-speaking people from nationalists. Ukraine and its Western allies consider this to be an unfounded pretext for a blatant aggression to seize territory.
Neil Melvin of the London-based research organization RUSI said that although Russia will try to see its advance in Luhansk as a pivotal moment in the war, it will cost the Russian military an expensive price.
“Ukraine’s position is that they can never defend all of this. What they are trying to do is slow down the Russian attack and deal maximum damage, while they prepare for a counterattack,” he said.
Zelenskiy said Russia had “brutally” attacked Kharkiv, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk with rocket attacks, leaving six dead and 20 injured in Sloviansk alone.
Russia’s Defense Ministry on Sunday also said it had hit the military infrastructure of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city in the northeast, where a Reuters reporter said Ukrainian forces had built up a military base. after the nightly shelling.
Outside a school in Kharkiv, some residents threw debris into a large crater created by an early morning rocket attack while others were helped to repair damaged houses. broken.
One resident, Oleksii Mihulin, told Reuters: “The lucky wife woke up early in the morning because the roof fell down exactly where she was sleeping.
About 70 kilometers (44 miles) from Kharkiv on the border with Russia, Russia also reported Sunday’s explosions in Belgorod, which reportedly killed at least three people and destroyed homes.
“The sound was so strong that I jumped up, woke up, was very scared and started screaming,” a Belgorod resident told Reuters, adding that the explosion happened around 3 a.m. morning (0000 GMT).
Moscow has accused Kyiv of numerous attacks on Belgorod and other areas bordering Ukraine. Kyiv has never claimed responsibility for any of these incidents.
Ukraine said its air force carried out about 15 sorties “in almost all hostile directions”, destroying equipment and two ammunition depots.
In the Russian-occupied southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol, Ukrainian forces attacked a military logistics base with more than 30 attacks on Sunday, the city’s exiled mayor Ivan Fedorov said. A Russian-installed official confirmed that air strikes hit the city.
Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.
Zelenskyy begs G7 allies for more help
Ukraine has repeatedly called for an accelerated supply of weapons from the West, saying its forces are in short supply.
Speaking during a visit to Kyiv, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government would provide more armored vehicles to Ukraine, as well as tighten sanctions on Russia.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told broadcaster ARD that Germany was in discussions with its allies about ensuring security for Ukraine after the war, although it was clear that these would “not be the same as if someone were a member of the NATO”.
(Additional reporting by Ron Popeski, Reuters Office and Leah Millis in Kharkiv; Writing by David Lawder, Lincoln Feast, and Aidan Lewis; Editing by William Mallard, Edmund Blair, Raissa Kasolowsky, and Paul Simao)