Russia Claims Capture of Ukraine City 07/03 08:38
Russia's defense minister said Russian forces took control Sunday of the
last major Ukrainian-held city in Ukraine's Luhansk province, bringing Moscow
closer to its stated goal of seizing all of Ukraine's Donbas region.
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Russia's defense minister said Russian forces took
control Sunday of the last major Ukrainian-held city in Ukraine's Luhansk
province, bringing Moscow closer to its stated goal of seizing all of Ukraine's
Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that Russia's
troops together with members of a local separatist militia "have established
full control over the city of Lysychansk," a ministry statement said.
Taking Lysychansk constitutes "the liberation of the Luhansk People's
Republic," one of two separatist regions in Ukraine that Russia recognizes as
sovereign, the statement said.
Ukrainian fighters spent weeks trying to defend Lysychansk and to keep it
from falling to Russia, 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 immediately provide an update on its status.
Earlier Sunday, Luhansk's governor said Russian forces were strengthening
their positions in a grueling fight to capture the last stronghold of
resistance in the province.
"The occupiers threw all their forces on Lysychansk. They attacked the city
with incomprehensibly cruel tactics," Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said on
the Telegram messaging app. "They suffer significant losses, but stubbornly
advance. They are gaining a foothold in the city."
A river separates Lysychansk from Sievierodonetsk. Oleksiy Arestovych, an
adviser to the Ukrainian president, said during an online interview late
Saturday that Russian forces had managed for the first time to cross the river
from the north, creating a "threatening" situation.
Arestovych said they had not reached the center of the city but that the
course of the fighting indicated the battle for Lysychansk would be decided by
Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk are the two provinces that make up the
Donbas, where Russia has focused its offensive since pulling back from northern
Ukraine and the capital, Kyiv, in the spring.
Pro-Russia separatists have held portions of both eastern provinces since
2014, and Moscow recognizes all of Luhansk and Donetsk as sovereign republics.
Syria's government said Wednesday that it would also recognize the
"independence and sovereignty" of the two areas.
An occupation of Lysychansk would open the way for the Russians to move west
into Donetsk province, where the sizable Ukrainian-held city of Slovyansk has
come under rocket attacks several times since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb.
24. Mayor Vadym Lyakh said new attacks Sunday killed an unspecified number of
Elsewhere in the war, the exiled mayor of the Russia-occupied city of
Melitopol said Sunday that Ukrainian rockets destroyed one of four Russian
military bases in the city.
The governor of the Belgorod region in western Russia said four people were
killed Sunday by fragments of an intercepted Ukrainian missile. The Russian
Defense Ministry said two Ukrainian drones were shot down over the city of
Kursk regional governor Roman Starovoit said the town of Tetkino, on the
Ukraine border, came under mortar fire.
The leader of neighboring Belarus, a Russian ally, claimed Saturday that
Ukraine fired missiles at military targets on Belarusian territory several days
ago but all were intercepted by an air defense system. President Alexander
Lukashenko described the alleged strike as a provocation and noted that no
Belarusian soldiers were fighting in Ukraine.
There was no immediate response from the Ukrainian military.
Belarus hosts Russian military units and was used as a staging ground for
Russia's invasion. Last week, just hours before Lukashenko was to meet with
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian long-range bombers fired missiles on
Ukraine from Belarusian airspace for the first time.
Lukashenko has so far resisted efforts to draw his army into the war. But
during their meeting, Putin announced that Russia planned to supply Belarus
with the Iskander-M missile system and reminded Lukashenko that his government
depends on economic support from Russia.