A Ukrainian soldier on a destroyed Russian tank on the frontline in the Luhansk region of Ukraine on June 09, 2022.
Diego Herrera Carcedo | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
Russia said on Sunday that its forces had taken control of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region after capturing the last Ukrainian holdout in heavy fighting, although Ukraine did not confirm the claim.
Control of Luhansk, a major war objective for Russia, would come after weeks of slow progress, handing Moscow a limited political victory and shifting the battlefield to the neighboring Donetsk region, where Ukraine still controls substantial territory. Is.
Withdrawing from Ukraine’s capital Kyiv after the February 24 invasion, Russia has focused its military campaign on the Donbass, which includes Luhansk and Donetsk. Moscow-backed separatist supporters have been fighting there since Russia’s first military intervention in Ukraine in 2014.
After Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin that Luhansk had been “liberated”, the Defense Ministry said Russia had previously stated that its forces had captured the villages and cities around Lisichansk. is surrounded.
The minister said that Russian forces and their allies in the region had “gained complete control of the city of Lisychansk.”
Yuri Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister, told Reuters by phone that he “cannot confirm that Lisichansk is under full Russian control.” The press service of Ukraine’s Defense Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Ukrainian officials, who say the references to “liberating” Ukrainian territory are Russian war propaganda, had reported intense artillery barrages on residential areas.
“Ukrainian forces likely made a deliberate withdrawal from Lisichansk, resulting in the Russian capture of the city on July 2,” analysts at the Washington-based think tank Institute for the Study of War wrote in a briefing note.
He based his assessment on footage showing Russian forces moving recklessly in the northern and eastern areas of Lisichansk, saying that there were few or no Ukrainian forces left. It said the footage includes photos posted on social media and geolocated to confirm where it was filmed.
The city’s mayor, Vadim Lyakh, said several people were killed and injured on Sunday after powerful shelling from several rocket launchers hit the Ukrainian city of Sloviask.
Since Russia’s invasion has killed thousands of civilians and leveled cities, Kyiv has accused Moscow of deliberately targeting civilians. Moscow denies this.
Russia says what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine aimed at protecting Russian-speaking nationalists from nationalists. Ukraine and its Western allies say it is a baseless excuse for its open offensive aimed at capturing the region.
Neil Melvin of London-based think tank RUSI said Russia would try to frame its progress in Luhansk as a pivotal moment in the war, but the war came four months and at a high cost to Russia’s military.
“Ukraine’s position was never that they could defend all this. What they are trying to do is to slow down the Russian attack and inflict maximum damage while they prepare for a counterattack,” he said. .
Russia’s defense ministry also said on Sunday it had attacked military structures in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city in the country’s northeast, where Ukrainian forces are excavating concrete fortifications after night shelling, A Reuters reporter said.
Ukraine says dozens of civilians have been injured or killed in the region in recent weeks.
However, about 70 km (44 miles) from Kharkiv on the Russian side of the border, Russia also reported explosions in Belgorod on Sunday, saying at least three people were killed and homes destroyed.
“The sound was so loud that I jumped, I woke up, I was so scared and started screaming,” the Belgorod resident told Reuters. The explosion occurred at around 3 am (0000 GMT).
Moscow has accused Kyiv of several attacks on Belgorod and other areas bordering Ukraine. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine. Previously, Kyiv has not claimed responsibility, but says events such as payback, after Russia turned Ukrainian urban areas into rubble.
In the Russian-occupied southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol, Ukrainian forces on Sunday attacked a military base with more than 30 attacks, the city’s exiled mayor Ivan Fedorov said in a video address on Telegram.
An official set up in Moscow said several private residential homes near the airfield were damaged, but there were no casualties.
Ukraine said its air force made about 15 flights “in almost all directions of the hostility”, destroying equipment and two ammunition depots.
Further south, Russia said it had struck an army command post in Mykolaiv, near the important Black Sea port of Odessa, where the mayor had reported several powerful explosions on Saturday.
Ukraine’s General Staff said on Sunday that “the Russians are launching systematic rocket attacks in the direction of the occupied Mykolaiv.”
Reuters could not independently confirm the battlefield reports.
Ukraine has repeatedly urged the West to speed up arms supplies, saying its military has been heavily exhausted.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told broadcaster ARD on Sudan that Germany was discussing security guarantees for post-war Ukraine with its allies, although it was clear that these “would not be the same as if someone were a member of NATO.”