UKRAINE. (CW44 News At 10 | CNN) — Russia has taken control of Lysychansk, the last city in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine still under Ukrainian control.
According to the country’s defense ministry, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin on Sunday that the military had taken Lysychansk and a number of nearby settlements.
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The Ukrainian army announced on Sunday that it had been “forced to withdraw” from the critical city.
In his overnight televised address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the withdrawal from Lysychansk was motivated to save the lives of Ukrainian troops.
“We will rebuild the walls, we will reclaim the land and the people must be protected above all else,” he said.
Luhansk is one of two regions that make up Donbas, the eastern part of Ukraine where the conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists began in 2014. The area has become the main focus of Putin’s military ambition in Ukraine after his forces failed to take power. Kyiv earlier this year.
The fall of Lysychansk brings Russia closer to achieving its goal of taking over Donbas.
“After heavy fighting for Lysychansk, Ukraine’s armed forces were forced to withdraw from their occupied positions and lines,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Twitter on Sunday.
Accompanying the announcement was a photo that read: “Lysychansk: We’ll be back.”
A Facebook post from the Ukrainian army also mentioned Russia’s superiority in weapons, ammunition and personnel in the battle for the city.
“We will continue the fight. Unfortunately, steel will and patriotism are not enough for success – material and technical resources are needed,” the message read.
Pro-Russian separatists in the area had already won the battle for Lysychansk.
Leonid Pasechnik, the leader of the Russian-backed self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR), declared the Luhansk region “liberated”.
“Today is the day we have achieved what we have all strived for for eight years. Today, with the support of the Russian armed forces, our troops liberated the city of Lysychansk, completing the liberation of the Republic within its historical borders,” Pasechnik said.
Only Russia and Syria recognize the LPR as independent. Ukraine and its western allies consider it part of Ukrainian territory, which is currently under Russian occupation.
Video shared by Russian state news channel Ria Novosti on Saturday claims residents install the old Soviet Union flag at the memorial to the fallen in Lysychansk.
The Institute for the Study of War said Russia is likely to gain control of the remaining territory of the Luhansk region in the coming days. After that, the institute said in its latest update that Russian forces are likely to focus on Ukrainian positions in Siversk, west of Lysychansk, before turning inland to Sloviansk and Bakhmut.
The military administration of the Donetsk region said on Sunday that Russian troops continue to shell Slovyansk and Bakhmut.
Tetiana Tiurina, head of the Public Information and Communications Department of the Donetsk region, said at least six people were killed and 15 injured in Sloviansk on Sunday.
The city of Kramatorsk was also hit by three rocket attacks on Sunday morning, but there were no casualties, according to the Donetsk regional military administration in Ukraine.
Zelensky said the cities in the Luhansk region were “the epicenter” of hostilities. In his late-night address on Saturday, Zelensky acknowledged that more than 2,600 Ukrainian cities and towns were under Russian control.
“The Russian military continued to fire rockets at our cities,” Zelensky said, urging people to “help the military, help volunteers, help anyone who was alone at the time” and use their contacts to “tell the truth.” spread about the war.” and about the crimes of the occupiers on our land.”
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Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops said they destroyed a Russian military base in occupied Melitopol in southern Ukraine early Sunday morning, exiled mayor Ivan Fedorov said in a video speech.
Melitopol fell under Russian control in early March, weeks after the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.
According to Fedorov, Ukrainian troops have filed “more than 30 shots exclusively at the military base”, rendering it “unable to function”.
“Now the whole city is covered in smoke. This has been going on for three to four hours. Warehouses on the territory of the transport air base are on fire,” Fedorov added.
The head of the Russian-installed council in the Zaporizhzhya region, Evgeny Balitsky, said in a Telegram post on Sunday that “grenades fell on the territory at the airport” and that “there were no casualties”.
Russian state news agency RIA Novosti also confirmed the attack, reporting that Ukraine had hit the Aviagorodok area of Melitopol, but did not specify what the target was.
Russia and Belarus claim Ukrainian attacks on their territory
The Russian defense ministry also claimed on Sunday that the Ukrainian army carried out “a deliberate attack” on residential areas of the Russian cities of Belgorod and Kursk.
Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement that Ukrainian forces attacked the cities with Tochka-U ballistic missiles with cluster munitions and drones.
He said three ballistic missiles launched at Belgorod were destroyed by Russian air defense systems, adding that the wreckage of one of the missiles fell on a residential building in the city.
Konashenkov also claimed that Russian air defense systems destroyed two Ukrainian military drones as they approached the city of Kursk, about 130 km (80 mi) north of Belgorod.
CNN has not been able to independently confirm those claims and the Ukrainian military has not yet commented on the attacks.
The governor of the Belgorod region Vyacheslav Gladkov said in a statement on his Telegram channel that at least three people were killed and dozens of residential buildings were damaged by explosions early Sunday morning.
Separately, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on Saturday accused Ukraine of launching a rocket attack on military facilities on his country two days earlier.
In comments published on the presidential website on Saturday, Lukashenko said Belarusian forces intercepted the missiles. However, he has not provided any evidence of Ukraine’s alleged attack.
The Ukrainian military did not immediately respond to CNN’s requests for comment on Lukashenko’s claims.
Lukashenko, Putin’s main ally in the region, said his country was being dragged into a war with Ukraine, claiming that “not a single Belarusian soldier is fighting on Ukraine’s territory”.
Russian forces launched the invasion of Ukraine from Belarus on February 24, after months of gathering manpower and equipment along the border with Ukraine.
According to intelligence gathered by NATO surveillance planes and CNN reporting, Belarus’ support for the Russian invasion includes air operations in addition to ground support.
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