- Russia announced encirclement and then capture of Lysychansk
- City was the last Ukrainian stronghold in Luhansk . region
- Ukraine fiercely resisted during weeks of fighting
- Explosion hits Russian base in Belgorod, southern Ukraine
KYIV, July 3 (Reuters) – Russia on Sunday said it had taken full control of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region after capturing the last Ukrainian bastion, Lysychansk, the city from which Kiev said it had withdrawn to take the lives of its troops. to rescue.
The capture of the region, a major Russian war objective, is a political victory for the Kremlin after weeks of rapid progress and shifts the focus from the battlefield to the neighboring Donetsk region, where Kiev still controls parts of the territory.
Since Russia halted its attack on the capital Kiev, Russia has concentrated its military operation on the industrial heartland of Donbas that includes the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where Moscow-backed separatist proxies have been fighting Ukraine since 2014.
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Russia says it is taking the Luhansk region to give it to the self-proclaimed Russian-backed Luhansk People’s Republic, whose independence it recognized on the eve of the war.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin that Luhansk had been “liberated,” the defense ministry said, after Russia previously said its troops had taken villages around Lysychansk and surrounded the city. read more
Ukraine’s military command said its troops had been forced to withdraw from the city.
“Continuing to defend the city would have fatal consequences. In order to preserve the lives of Ukrainian defenders, it has been decided to withdraw,” it said in a statement posted on social media.
Ukrainian officials, who say references to “liberating” Ukrainian territory are Russian propaganda, had reported intense artillery shelling of residential areas.
In a statement on the Telegram messaging app, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai also confirmed Ukraine’s withdrawal after “heavy fighting”.
“No betrayal here! When you write – surrendered, given up, abandoned, think first of all of the price of advancing to our victory, of the warriors who defended the city, some at the cost of their own lives …” wrote Haidai.
West of Lysychansk in the Donetsk region, at least six people were killed on Sunday when the Ukrainian city of Sloviansk was hit by strong fire from multiple rocket launchers on Sunday, local officials said. read more
Thousands of civilians have been killed and cities razed to the ground since Russia invaded on February 24, with Kiev accusing Moscow of deliberately attacking civilians. Moscow denies this.
Russia says what it calls a “special military operation” in Ukraine is to protect Russian speakers from nationalists. Ukraine and its Western allies say this is an unfounded pretext for its blatant aggression aimed at conquering territory.
While Russia would try to portray its advance into Luhansk as a key moment in the war, it came at a high cost to the Russian military, said Neil Melvin of London-based think tank RUSI.
“Ukraine’s position was never that they could defend all of this. What they have tried to do is slow down the Russian attack and do maximum damage while preparing for a counter-offensive,” he said.
The victory allows Putin to claim some limited success after a protracted and costly attack, but Ukraine can fall back on an easier-to-defend line that will allow it to use Western artillery and other longer-range weapons with less risk of encircling Russian forces and destroying it. capturing those systems, said Rob Lee of the US-based Foreign Policy Research Institute.
“I suspect Russia will make some more profits, but the big question is, it’s symbolically important for Putin, but strategically it’s not disastrous for Ukraine as long as they don’t suffer heavy losses,” Lee said. that the extent of the Ukrainian losses was unclear.
Russia’s defense ministry also said on Sunday it had hit the military infrastructure of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city in the northeast, where a Reuters reporter said Ukrainian forces were building fortifications after nighttime shelling.
Outside a school in Kharkiv, some residents threw rubble into a large crater created by an early morning rocket attack, while others got help repairing damaged homes.
“The woman was lucky to wake up early in the morning because the roof fell exactly where she had been sleeping,” one resident, Oleksii Mihulin, told Reuters.
About 70 km (44 miles) from Kharkiv on the Russian side of the border, Russia also reported explosions in Belgorod on Sunday, killing at least three people and destroying homes. read more
“The noise was so strong that I jumped up, I woke up, got really scared and started screaming,” a Belgorod resident told Reuters, adding that the blast happened around 3am (0000 GMT).
Moscow has accused Kiev of numerous attacks on Belgorod and other areas bordering Ukraine. Kiev never claimed responsibility for any of these incidents. read more
MILITARY BASE HIT
Ukraine said its air force had flown some 15 sorties “in virtually all directions of hostilities”, destroying equipment and two ammunition depots.
In the Russian-occupied southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol, Ukrainian troops hit a military logistics base with more than 30 strikes on Sunday, exiled mayor Ivan Fedorov said. An official installed by Russia confirmed that strikes had hit the city. read more
Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.
Ukraine has repeatedly called for an acceleration of arms deliveries from the West, saying its armed forces are under heavy fire.
During a visit to Kiev, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said his government will provide Ukraine with additional armored vehicles, as well as tightening sanctions against Russia. read more
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz told ARD broadcaster that Germany was in talks with its allies about security guarantees for Ukraine after the war, although it was clear that these “wouldn’t be the same as if someone were a member of NATO”. read more
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Additional reporting by Reuters agencies and Leah Millis in Kharkiv; Written by Lincoln Feast, Aidan Lewis and David Lawder; Editing by William Mallard, Edmund Blair, Raissa Kasolowsky and Paul Simao
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