Fighting intensified over the weekend around Lysyhansk, Ukraine’s last major bastion in the strategic eastern province of Luhansk, and an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelenskyy conceded the city could fall.
Russian forces captured Lysychansk’s twin city of Sievierodonetsk on the opposite side of the Siverskiy Donets River last month after some of the heaviest fighting of the war.
Rodion Miroshnik, ambassador to Russia of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic of Russia, told Russian TV: “Lysychansk has been brought under control,” but added: “Unfortunately, it is not liberated yet.”
Russian forces attack the eastern Ukrainian province of Luhansk
Russian media showed video of Luhansk militias parading in the streets of Lysyhansk, waving flags and cheering, but Ukrainian National Guard spokesman Ruslan Muzychuk told Ukrainian TV the city remains in Ukrainian hands.
“Now there is fierce fighting near Lysychansk, but fortunately the city is not surrounded and is under the control of the Ukrainian army,” Muzychuk said.
Zelenskyi adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said Russian forces had finally crossed the Seversky Donets River and were approaching the city from the north.
“It is indeed a threat. We will see. I am not ruling out any of several outcomes here. Things will become a lot clearer within a day or two,” he said.
“If Lysychansk is taken, it will become more difficult strategically for the Russians to continue their offensive. The front lines are getting flatter and attacking is coming from the front rather than from the flanks.”
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He said the Russians would have to focus on taking six major cities in the industrialized eastern Donbass region, and with each one their forces would become thinner and thinner.
“The more Western weapons come to the front, the more the picture changes in favor of Ukraine,” he said.
Ukraine has repeatedly asked for more weapons from the West, saying its armed forces are severely outnumbered.
Elsewhere, Oleksandr Senkevych, mayor of Mykolaiv, which borders the vital Black Sea port of Odessa, reported powerful explosions in the city on Saturday.
“Stay in shelters!” he wrote on the messaging app Telegram as air raid sirens sounded.
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The cause of the blasts was not immediately clear, although Russia later said it struck army command posts.
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Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.
Ukrainian authorities said a rocket struck an apartment building near Odessa on Friday, killing at least 21 people. A shopping mall was hit in downtown Kremenchuk on Monday, killing at least 19 people.
Zelenskyy denounced the attacks on Friday as “deliberate, intentionally targeted Russian terror and not some kind of mistake or random missile attack”.
“VERY DIFFICULT PATH”
In his late-night televised address on Saturday, Zelenskyy said it was a “very difficult road” to victory, but that the Ukrainians must maintain their resolve and inflict casualties on the “aggressor…so that every Russian remembers that Ukraine cannot be broken.”
Kyiv says Moscow has intensified rocket attacks on cities far from the main battlefields in the east, deliberately hitting civilian sites. Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops on the Eastern Front describe intense artillery fire on residential areas.
Thousands of civilians have been killed and cities leveled since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov echoed Russia’s denials that it was targeting civilians.
Russia is trying to drive Ukrainian forces out of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces in the Donbass, where Moscow-backed separatists have been battling Kyiv since Russia’s first military intervention in Ukraine in 2014.
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Troops taking a break from fighting in Konstiantynivka, a market town about 115 km (72 miles) west of Lysyhansk, said they managed to keep the supply route to the embattled city open for the time being, despite Russian bombardment.
“We’re still using the road because we have to, but it’s within Russian artillery range,” one soldier said as comrades relaxed nearby, eating sandwiches or eating ice cream.
“The Russian tactic at the moment is to just bomb every building we might be in. When they destroy it, they move on to the next one,” he said.
Reuters reporters saw an unexploded rocket stuck in the ground in a residential area on the outskirts of the Donbass city of Kramatorsk on Saturday evening.
Russia is on the verge of taking control of the main Ukrainian stronghold of Sievarodonetsk
The rocket fell in a wooded area between high-rise apartment buildings. Artillery fire and several large explosions were heard in the center of Kramatorsk early in the evening.
Though Ukrainian forces are battered in the east, they have made some progress elsewhere, including Russia’s withdrawal from Snake Island, a rocky outcrop in the Black Sea southeast of Odessa that Moscow captured earlier in the war.
Russia had used Snake Island to impose a blockade on Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters and a major producer of vegetable oil seeds. The disruptions have helped fuel a surge in global grain and food prices.
Russia, also a major grain producer, blames the crisis on Western sanctions, which are affecting its exports.
(Reporting by Reuters bureaus; writing by Lincoln Feast, Edmund Blair, Ron Popeski and David Brunnstrom 😉
https://globalnews.ca/news/8963561/zelenskyy-bastion-russia-ukraine/ Zelenskyy’s adviser says key bastion in eastern Ukraine could fall to Russians – National