(Kramatorsk) Russia claimed on Sunday it had captured Lysychansk and controlled the entire Luhansk region, a potentially important advance in the battle for Donbass in eastern Ukraine, and Moscow accused Kyiv of firing “three rockets” at a Russian city from which local authorities had reported ten dead.
Posted at 7:27
Updated at 10:21 am
Russian Defense Minister “Sergei Shoigu” briefed President Vladimir Putin “on the liberation of the Luhansk People’s Republic” after the city of Lysychansk was captured in the heart of intense fighting, according to an official statement quoted by Russian news outlets.
Russian forces and their Separatist allies have “taken complete control of Lysytchansk and other nearby towns, the most notable of which are Belogorovka, Novodrujesk, Maloriazantsevo and Belaya Gora,” the statement added.
AFP could not verify this information from an independent source.
The capture of Lysytchansk, if confirmed by Kyiv, would allow Moscow to advance its plan to capture all of Donbass, an industrial region in eastern Ukraine that has been mostly Russian-speaking and partially controlled by separatists since 2014, and towards the cities advance Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, further west, where the residents already live to the daily rhythm of warning sirens and bombardments.
The multiple rocket launchers that hit Sloviansk on Sunday left “six dead and fifteen wounded,” the mayor of the city in eastern Ukraine announced after pressure from the Russian army.
“Preliminary balance of today’s shooting: six dead, 15 wounded. Among the dead is a child,” Vadim Liakh said on Facebook, confirming an earlier report by a regional spokesman to Ukrainian media Suspilne.
He specified that several districts of this city with around 100,000 inhabitants had already been affected before the war.
“Several rocket launcher fires on Sloviansk, the largest in a long time. There are fifteen fires. Lots of dead and injured,” he initially said in a video posted to Facebook.
Tetiana Ignatchenko, a spokeswoman for the Donetsk region, to which Sloviansk belongs, reiterated the authorities’ appeal to residents to leave the region because the front line is only a few kilometers from Sloviansk.
According to Ukrainian media, one of the city’s markets was particularly ablaze after these strikes.
Further south, the city of Kramatorsk, the administrative center of Ukrainian-controlled Donbass, was hit by Smertch missiles for the second day in a row, according to the city’s mayor Oleksandr Goncharenko.
Those strikes, which hit a residential area and an unoccupied hotel, claimed no casualties, he said.
In Kremlin jargon, the ongoing offensive in eastern Ukraine is aimed at liberating territories deemed Russian.
On Sunday morning, the governor of the Luhansk region, Sergei Gaidar, indicated that Ukrainian forces in Lysyhansk, a city that had a population of 100,000 before the war began, were rapidly losing ground to the invaders.
“The Russians are building a shop in a district of Lysytchansk, the city is on fire,” he said.
“The occupiers probably used all their strength [dans une bataille extrêmement] “brutal” systematic demolition of administrative buildings, Mr. Gaidar added. “They suffer heavy casualties but stubbornly advance.”
Four dead in Belgorod
The Russian army also claimed to have shot down three Ukrainian missiles at dawn on Sunday, which had been fired against the town of Belgorod, near the border with Ukraine, where a local official earlier announced the deaths of at least three people after explosions.
“Russian air defense shot down the three Tochka-U cluster missiles launched by Ukrainian nationalists against Belgorod. After the destruction of the Ukrainian missiles, the debris of one of them fell on a house,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
Since Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has repeatedly accused Kyiv of trespassing on Russian soil, particularly in the Belgorod region. In early April, Mr Gladkov accused Ukraine of carrying out an attack on a fuel depot in Belgorod using two helicopters.
In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city in northeastern Ukraine, residents were again woken up at 4 a.m. “by Russian rocket attacks,” according to the region’s governor Oleg Sinegoubov, who also reported that Russian “shots” erupted in several districts in the morning Ukraine would have shot his range.
On the southern front, the Ukrainian regional operations command said in the morning that the Russian army had carried out “nine airstrikes with K-52 attack helicopters and two bombardments on the island of snakes” in the past 24 hours, which were taken over by Kyiv forces in the past 24 hours northwestern Black Sea on Wednesday.
From the same source, the building of a rest area located on the coast was damaged by a Russian missile, which did not cause any casualties. For its part, the Ukrainian army says it has carried out five plane and helicopter attacks on two ammunition dumps and five concentration points of Russian forces.
At the diplomatic level, Belarus, Ukraine’s neighbor and Moscow’s ally, appeared to send a warning to Kyiv and its Western backers on Saturday night, fueling speculation of a growing Minsk involvement in the conflict.
“About three days ago, maybe more, we tried to hit military targets in Belarus from Ukraine,” but “Thank God our Pantsir anti-aircraft systems intercepted all missiles launched by Ukrainian forces,” said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko.
“We are being provoked,” he said, threatening to respond “immediately” to any enemy attack on Belarus’ territory.
“Less than a month ago, I gave the order to our armed forces to target the decision centers in your capitals, as we are now saying,” Lukashenko reiterated, referring to the missiles promised by Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as Belarus’s Polonets missile launcher system .
Belarus has served as a base for Russian forces since Moscow started the war, and Mr Putin recently announced that Moscow will deliver Iskander-M missiles to Minsk “in the coming months” capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
In a video message to Ukrainians on Saturday night, Zelenskyy counted “2,610” towns and villages “under Russian occupation.” But since the beginning of the war, the Ukrainian army “managed to liberate 1027,” he assured.
“Hundreds were completely destroyed by the Russian army and need to be completely rebuilt,” he added. The issue of rebuilding the country must be the focus of an international conference in Lugano, Switzerland, on Monday and Tuesday.
“It is necessary not only to rebuild everything that the occupiers destroyed, but also to lay new foundations for our life, for a safe, modern Ukraine,” said the Ukrainian president, who sees this as “enormous investments” and “reforms “.