|Vladimir Putin "complete control" over Lysychansk|
Russia says it controls Ukraine's eastern Luhansk region after taking over Lysychansk, the last Ukrainian-held city in the region. Russia's Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, told Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday (07/03/2022) that their forces had established "complete control" over Lysychansk and several nearby settlements, Russia's state news agency RIA Novosti reported. Meanwhile, Ukraine's military command confirmed late Sunday that its troops had been forced to withdraw from the city, saying there would be "fatal consequences". "In order to save the lives of the defenders of Ukraine, the decision was made to withdraw," he said. Ukraine has previously denied Russia's claims.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Russia was not in complete control and fighting was continuing on the outskirts of the city. He acknowledged, however, that Ukraine was in a difficult place. But late on Sunday, Zelensky acknowledged the city's loss, vowing to retake the area because of army tactics and the prospect of new, better weaponry. "If the commanders of our army pull people from certain points in the front, where the enemy has the greatest advantage in fire power, and this also applies to Lysychansk, it means only one thing," Zelenskiy said in his evening video address, quoted by The Guardian. "That we will return thanks to our tactics, thanks to the increased supply of modern weapons."
Fighting in eastern Ukraine has remained intense since Moscow refocused its efforts there. Violence has even spread to Ukraine, with officials in the Russian city of Belgorod accusing Ukrainian troops on Sunday of bombing a neighborhood and killing three people and damaging homes. Russia's takeover of Lysychansk means Moscow has won control of the entire Luhansk region as well as more than half of the Donetsk region, which makes up about 75 percent of the two eastern regions, collectively known as the Donbas. Occupying the entire Donbas region has been the main goal of the Russian invasion, with the country concentrating most of its forces there after failing to occupy northern Ukraine, including the capital, Kyiv, in late March.
The advance will bring Russian troops closer to several other cities in Ukrainian-held Donetsk, including the frontline city of Sloviansk, where authorities say six people were killed and 15 injured in Sunday's shooting, and in the post-2014 regional capital. Kramatorsk, where a missile destroyed a hotel, according to its mayor Oleksandr Goncharenko. He said three rockets hit the city on Sunday and so far no casualties had been reported.
Russian troops published an online video allegedly shot in Lysychansk showing Russian soldiers happily raising Russian and Chechen flags in front of war-damaged buildings.
Last month the Ukrainian army withdrew from the Luhansk town of Sievierodonetsk, just north of Lysychansk, citing the scale of their losses. Although Ukraine does not publish figures on the number of Ukrainian soldiers killed and in what locations, adviser to Ukraine's president Mykhailo Podolyak said at the time that between 100 and 200 Ukrainian soldiers were killed every day. The London-based Institute for War Studies said Ukrainian troops may have been deliberately withdrawn from Lysychansk to avoid a siege. The main highway and supply route between the Ukrainian-held Donetsk region and Lysychansk has been rendered precarious by the shelling. Several civilians including a French journalist have died while driving along the route over the past month.
Inside Lysychansk, according to an aid worker interviewed by France24 who is still evacuating from the city, Russia used its superior artillery capabilities to level the buildings one by one, meaning Ukrainian troops had nowhere to hide. A local resident walks in front of the crater from a missile attack on a residential building in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut "Russian troops are entrenched in the Lysychansk area and the city is on fire," said Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region. “If houses and administrative buildings in Sievierodonetsk survived a month-long street battle, in Lysychansk the same administrative buildings were completely destroyed in less time.” Haidai said that although Ukrainian forces destroyed Russian ammunition depots in eastern Ukraine, Russia was "relentlessly advancing".
Ukrainian military intelligence told the Guardian last month that Ukraine had one artillery piece of up to 10 to 15 Russian artillery pieces. Since then, several western countries have pledged to send more military aid, including artillery. Separately, Russia blamed Ukraine for a missile attack on the Russian city of Belgorod, near the border with Ukraine, in which it said three people were killed and four injured, including a 10-year-old child. The regional governor of Belgorod, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said 11 apartment buildings and 39 detached houses were damaged or destroyed in the overnight incident. Russian defense ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said it was "deliberately planned and launched against the civilian population".
Russia said it had intercepted three Ukrainian missiles, but one fell into an apartment building. There have been several instances of explosions in Belgorod since the invasion began. Ukraine has not directly accepted responsibility but has previously described the incident as "karma" for Russia.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, an ally of Russia, claimed that no Belarusian army is currently fighting in Ukraine, and that Belarus will only go to war in response to provocations on Saturday (2/7/2022). He later claimed, without providing evidence, that last week Belarusian anti-aircraft systems had shot down several missiles fired by Ukraine at Belarusian military installations. "We are being provoked.
I have to tell you - three days ago, maybe a little longer, they tried to attack military facilities on the territory of Belarus from the territory of Ukraine. But, thankfully, the Panzer anti-aircraft system managed to intercept all the missiles," said Lukashenko. Ukraine has not yet responded to Lukashenko's claims but in an interview on June 6, Zelenskiy played down the risk of a repeated invasion of Belarusian territory.