(Sloviansk) Fierce fighting raged on Saturday in Lysychansk, a city in eastern Ukraine at the heart of the struggle for control of Donbass, which pro-Russian separatists say they have “completely” surrounded, a claim denied by the Ukrainian army becomes.
Posted at 7:27
Updated at 10:18 am
“Fighting is raging around Lysychansk. Fortunately, the city is not surrounded and is under the control of the Ukrainian army,” Ruslan Mouzychuk, spokesman for the National Guard of Ukraine, told TV.
The Moscow-backed separatists had recently claimed that they had “totally” surrounded Lysytchansk.
“Today the people’s militia of Lugansk [l’armée séparatiste, NDLR] and the Russian armed forces occupied the last strategic heights, which allows us to confirm that the village of Lysytchansk is completely surrounded,” said Andrei Marochko, a representative of these forces, as quoted by the Russian news agency TASS.
Lysyhansk is the last major non-Russian city in the Luhansk region, one of two provinces in Donbass, a largely Russian-speaking industrial region in eastern Ukraine that has been partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014 and that Moscow now wants to conquer entirely.
The city, which had a population of nearly 100,000 before the war, is the twin city of Sievierodonetsk, which was captured by Moscow last week after Ukrainian forces withdrew after a battle lasting several weeks. The two cities are separated by the Donets, the main tributary of the Don.
The capture of Lyssytchansk would allow the Russian army to advance toward Sloviansk (about sixty kilometers to the west) and Kramatorsk, two other major cities of the Donbass in the Donetsk region.
On Saturday morning, the Ukrainian General Staff claimed to have repelled a Russian offensive aimed at encircling the town a few kilometers west of Lysytchansk.
On Friday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy admitted that the situation for Ukrainian forces on the ground remained “extremely difficult”.
In Sloviansk, which has been under rocket fire day and night hitting residential areas for at least a week, at least four civilians have been killed and twelve wounded since Friday morning, according to Donetsk Region Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko.
A rocket attack on Friday evening hit houses in particular, killing a woman and injuring her husband, a neighbor told an AFP journalist on Saturday, showing the damage to buildings in the neighborhood.
The city’s mayor, Vadym Liakh, accused Russian forces of using cluster munitions, which is banned by international treaties to which Moscow is not a party.
Further north, in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, “in the morning […] was particularly turbulent,” said regional governor Oleg Sinegoubov, according to whom rockets hit part of the city without causing casualties.
Igor Konashenkov, the spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry, said the Russian Air Force hit the local tractor factory in Kharkiv, where troops and equipment from the 10the Ukrainian Mountain Assault Brigade.
On the southern front, the Russian army hit 39 command centers and two ammunition depots near Mykolaiv with artillery fire or airstrikes, according to Konashenkov. Ukrainian regional governor Vitaly Kim said explosions could be heard in the morning and authorities were trying to assess the consequences.
Generally speaking, Mr Konashenkov claimed, “the enemy is suffering heavy casualties on all fronts”.
Zelenskyy accused Moscow of using “terror” on Friday evening […] intentionally”, after the deaths of at least 21 people, including a 12-year-old boy, according to Ukrainian military and civilian authorities, in an attack by three Russian missiles that destroyed “a large building” and “a tourist complex” in Sergiïvka, a place on the Black Sea coast about 80 kilometers southwest of Odessa, in southern Ukraine.
Local authorities assure that there was “not the slightest military target” at the site of the attacks.
In response to the Ukrainian allegations, the Kremlin assured that “Russia’s armed forces are not operating against civilian targets” in Ukraine, a response Berlin called “inhumane and cynical”.
According to Kyiv, 38 people were injured in the attacks on Sergiyivka, including five children, two of them in serious condition.
According to the Ukrainian army, the weapons used against Sergiyivka are Soviet Cold War cruise missiles intended to attack an aircraft carrier strike group, of the same type that attacked a shopping center in Kremenchuk, central Ukraine, 200 km away on Monday front) and left 21 dead, a new report by the city’s mayor Vitali Maletsky revealed on Saturday.
On the diplomatic front, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Twitter that he had “discussed new measures after Ukraine became a candidate country for the EU” with European Union Foreign Minister Josep Borrell in late June, after the leaders the twenty-seven had agreed.
Both agree “on the need for the seventh EU sanctions package against Russia”.
Faced with the naval blockade imposed by Russia preventing it from exporting its wheat, Ukraine on Friday asked Turkey to intercept a Russian cargo ship departing from the port of Berdyansk in the occupied zone on the Sea of Azov and who it was suspected of transporting thousands of tons of grain stolen from Moscow.
As if to illustrate the problem of the grain war that Moscow has imposed on Kyiv and that worries many African countries that depend on Ukrainian wheat for their food security, the Ukrainian army confirmed on Friday night with a video in support that the Russian army twice beat snakes got ‘island with phosphorus bombs. The Russian military did not comment on the allegations in its daily press conference on Saturday.
Located near the Ukrainian and Romanian coasts in the Black Sea, the Island of Snakes is essential for maritime traffic control.
Moscow assured on Thursday that it had withdrawn from it as a “sign of good will”. For its part, Kyiv claims the Russians have been driven out by repeated Ukrainian strikes.