Russia on Sunday claimed control of the entire Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine after conquering the strategic city of Lysychansk, which was the scene of intense fighting.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the minister, Sergei Shoigu, officially informed “the commander-in-chief of the Russian Armed Forces, Vladimir Putin, about the liberation of the Luhansk People’s Republic”.
The Ukrainian government said that Lysychansk is not yet under full control of Russian troops, and that Ukrainians continue to resist in the region. However, Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman Yuriy Sak said the situation in the city was “quite intense” and that the Russians “attacked without ceasing”.
A tank of the Armed Forces of Ukraine in the industrial area of the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk — Photo: Oleksandr Ratushniak/REUTERS
Earlier on Sunday, the Ukrainian governor of the Luhansk region, Sergei Gaidai, had already signaled that Ukrainian forces were losing ground in Lysychansk, a pre-war city of 100,000. “The Russians are barricading themselves in a district of Lysychansk, the city is on fire,” Gaidai said on Telegram. “They are attacking the city with inexplicably brutal tactics,” he added.
The conquest of Lysychansk – if confirmed – could allow Russian troops to advance towards Sloviansk and Kramatorsk further west, virtually securing control of the region, which had already been partially in the hands of pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
On Saturday, a representative of the “Luhansk People’s Militia” had claimed that separatists and Russian troops had completely surrounded Lysychansk, something that Ukraine denied.
Explosions in Russian city
On Sunday, Russia accused Kiev of launching missiles at the city of Belgorod, near the border between the two countries.
“Russian anti-aircraft defenses shot down three Totchka-U missiles launched by Ukrainian nationalists against Belgorod. After the destruction of the Ukrainian missiles, the remains of one of them fell on a house,” Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said.
Rescue services work to help blast victims in the Russian city of Belgorod — Photo: Alexey Stopichev/BelPressa/Handout via REUTERS
The governor of the region, Viacheslav Gladkov, had previously announced the death of at least three people in explosions in that city.
The accusations raised by Moscow came a day after Ukraine denounced what it called “deliberate Russian terror” in attacks in the Ukrainian city of Odessa region.
According to Ukrainian military and civilian officials, at least 21 people, including a 12-year-old boy, were killed on Friday by three Russian missiles that destroyed “a large building” and “a tourist complex” in Serhiivka, a town on the coast of Black Sea, about 80 km from Odessa, in southern Ukraine.
“This is deliberate Russian terror and not mistakes or an accidental missile attack,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denounced on Friday night, while local authorities assured that “there was no military target” at the site of the attacks.