LYSSYTCHANSK | The Russian offensive on Donbass continues unabated, according to Ukrainian authorities, who on Tuesday reported “catastrophic destruction” in Lysychansk, a city neighboring Severodonetsk, where nearly 570 people are now holed up at the Azot chemical plant.
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At the diplomatic level, Moscow has again raised the tone by pledging “measures” with “serious negative consequences” for the people of Lithuania after Vilnius introduced restrictions on the transit of goods affected by European sanctions by rail over the weekend to Kaliningrad, a strategic one and militarized Russian enclave on the Baltic Sea.
At the military theater in the morning, the governor of the Lugansk region (east), Serguiï Gaïdaï, reported on “fighting (ongoing) in the Severodonetsk industrial zone” and “catastrophic destruction in Lysytchansk”.
According to him, “the last 24 hours have been difficult” for Ukrainian forces and “the strikes on the (three) already destroyed bridges connecting Severodonetsk and Lysyhansk” continue, further cutting off the first of these two cities of around 100,000 people . from the remaining areas controlled by Kyiv.
Shortly before, Mr. Gaïdaï had stated on Ukrainian television that 568 people, including 38 children – according to him mainly employees of the factory and their families – are now refugees inside the Azot factory.
The factory is symbolic of this industrial city, which had around 100,000 inhabitants before the war and of which Kyiv still controls around a third. Moscow’s capture of the city would be an important step in the conquest of all of Donbass, a primarily Russian-speaking region partly held by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
The front is getting closer
“The Russians want to fully conquer the Lugansk region,” which they already “almost completely control before (Sunday) June 26,” affirmed Mr. Gaidai, “but they won’t get there in five days.”
Suffering from daily bombardment, the region has been the scene of heavy artillery combat between Russian and Ukrainian forces for several weeks. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged the Ukrainian military to “hold out” and believes the outcome of the war will depend on its resistance and ability to hold back and inflict casualties on the Russian army.
Several cities in the Donbass still controlled by Kyiv are nevertheless preparing for an advance by Russian troops, such as Sloviansk and Kramatorsk east of Severodonestk. “The front has come 15-20 kilometers closer in recent weeks,” Sloviansk Mayor Vadym Lyakh, who hopes for the quick arrival of “new weapons” from the Ukrainian army, among others, told AFP.
“Everything is fine here so far, but it’s very tough psychologically when you see what’s happening in other cities on TV,” said Svitlana, 48, a butcher at Kramatorsk Market.
In southern Ukraine, “specialists from the Russian Armed Forces’ broadcasting units have connected and reconfigured to broadcast Russian channels the last of the seven television stations in the Kherson region” that have been captured by Moscow since the first days of the war, according to a statement by the Russian Defense Ministry.
According to the text, a million residents of the region now have “free” access to the main Russian channels, particularly those of the public audiovisual group VGTRK, which actively relays the Kremlin line.
ties to Russia
Since the region came under Moscow’s control, the occupiers have been pursuing a policy of Russification of the areas there: the Russian currency, the ruble, was introduced and the distribution of Russian passports began.
According to the Russian state news agency TASS, Kirill Stremoussov, one of the new pro-Russian officials of the Kherson region, claimed that this area could be annexed to Russia “by referendum” “before the end of the year”.
Ukraine’s Kyiv provincial police chief said on TV that the bodies of 1,333 Ukrainian civilians who he says were killed by Russian forces were recovered Tuesday, 213 of whom have not yet been identified. 300 people remain missing since Russian forces withdrew from the area, he added.
In Oslo, the Nobel Committee congratulated Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov, co-winner of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize, on the auction of the medal he was presented with at the award ceremony.
It was purchased Monday by an anonymous buyer in New York for $103.5 million to donate to the Unicef program dedicated to Ukrainian children displaced by the war. This sum breaks all category records combined for auctions of this type.
“People need to understand that there is a conflict going on and that we need to help the people who are suffering the most,” said Muratov, Russian editor of the independent investigative newspaper Novaya Gazeta, explaining the reasons for the sale.