Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region on Monday, a day after Ukrainian forces withdrew from their last remaining stronghold of resistance in the province.
Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin at a TV session on Monday that Russian forces had taken control of Luhansk, which together with neighboring Donetsk province forms Ukraine’s industrial heartland, the Donbass.
Shoigu told Putin that “the operation” was completed on Sunday after Russian troops overran the city of Lysychansk, the last stronghold of Ukrainian forces in Luhansk.
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Putin, in turn, said that the military units “that took part in active hostilities and achieved successes, victories” in Luhansk “should rest and increase their combat capabilities.”
Putin’s statement came as Russian forces attempted to push their offensive deeper into eastern Ukraine after the Ukrainian military confirmed its forces had withdrawn from Lysychansk on Sunday. Luhansk Governor Serhii Haidai said Monday that Ukrainian forces had withdrawn from the city to avoid encirclement.
“There was a risk of Lysyhansk being encircled,” Haidai told the Associated Press, adding that Ukrainian troops could have held out for a few more weeks but may have paid too high a price.
“We managed to withdraw centrally and evacuate all the injured,” said Haidai. “We took back all the equipment, so the withdrawal was well organized from that point on.”
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Ukraine’s General Staff said Russian forces are now focusing their efforts on advancing towards the Siversk-Fedorivka-Bakhmut line in the Donetsk region, about half of which is controlled by Russia. The Russian army has also intensified its shelling of the main Ukrainian strongholds of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, deeper in Donetsk.
On Sunday, according to local authorities, six people, including a 9-year-old girl, were killed and 19 others injured in the Russian shelling of Sloviansk. Kramatorsk was also under fire on Sunday.
Russian forces attack the eastern Ukrainian province of Luhansk
A British Defense Ministry intelligence briefing on Monday backed the Ukrainian military’s assessment, noting that Russian forces will “now almost certainly” move to the capture of Donetsk. The briefing said the conflict in Donbass is “grueling and unnerving” and is unlikely to change in the coming weeks.
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While the Russian army has a massive advantage in firepower, military analysts say it does not have a significant superiority in troop numbers. This means Moscow has no resources for quick land gains and can only advance slowly, relying on heavy artillery and rocket fire to weaken Ukraine’s defenses.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has made conquering the entire Donbass a key objective of his war in Ukraine, now in its fifth month. Moscow-backed separatists in Donbass have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014, when they declared their independence from Kyiv following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea. Russia officially recognized the self-proclaimed republics days before its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine.
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In his late night video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy confirmed the withdrawal but promised that Ukrainian forces would fight back.
“If the leadership of our army withdraws people from certain points of the front where the enemy has the greatest fire superiority, especially this applies to Lysychansk, it means only one thing: we will return thanks to our tactics, thanks to the reinforcement, the supply of modern weapons,” said Zelenskyy.
Since Russia failed to capture Kyiv and other areas of north-eastern Ukraine early in the war, it has focused on the Donbass, unleashing heavy shelling and engaging in house-to-house fighting that devastated towns in the region.
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The Russian invasion has also devastated Ukraine’s agricultural sector, disrupting supply chains of seeds and fertilizers needed by Ukrainian farmers and blocking grain exports, a major source of income for the country.
In its intelligence report on Monday, Britain’s Defense Ministry pointed to the Russian blockade of Ukraine’s main port of Odessa, which has severely curtailed grain exports. They predicted that this year Ukraine’s agricultural exports would reach only 35% of total exports in 2021.
As Moscow pushed its offensive beyond eastern Ukraine, areas in western Russia came under attack on Sunday in a resurgence of sporadic apparent Ukrainian strikes across the border. The governor of western Russia’s Belgorod region said fragments of an intercepted Ukrainian missile killed four people on Sunday. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, two Ukrainian drones were shot down in the Russian city of Kursk.
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For other developments:
_ Ukrainian soldiers returning from the front lines in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass _ where Russia is waging a bitter offensive _ describe life in a grueling war of attrition as apocalyptic.
_ Two Russian planes left Bulgaria on Sunday carrying scores of Russian diplomatic staff and their families amid a mass displacement that has ratcheted up tensions between the historically close nations, a Russian diplomat said.
Associated Press journalists Maria Grazia Murru and Oleksandr Stashevskyi contributed from Kyiv, Ukraine.
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https://globalnews.ca/news/8964959/putin-declares-luhansk-victory-ukraine-russia-war/ Putin declares victory in Luhansk province after Ukrainian forces withdraw – National