Russia says its forces have full management of Ukraine’s Luhansk area

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Tom Balmforth and Max Hunder

KYIV — Russia mentioned it had taken full management of the japanese Ukrainian area of Luhansk on Sunday after capturing the ultimate Ukrainian bastion of town of Lysychansk, the place Kyiv mentioned it had withdrawn to save lots of the lives of its troops.

The area’s seize, a key Russian warfare intention, arms Moscow a lift after weeks of sluggish advances and shifts the battlefield focus to neighboring Donetsk area, the place Kyiv nonetheless controls substantial territory.

Since abandoning an assault on the capital Kyiv, Russia has concentrated its navy operation on the commercial Donbas heartland that contains the Luhansk and Donetsk areas, the place Moscow-backed separatist proxies have been preventing Ukraine since 2014.

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Russia says it’s capturing Luhansk area as a way to give it to the Russian-backed Luhansk Folks’s Republic whose independence it acknowledged on the eve of the warfare.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu knowledgeable President Vladimir Putin that Luhansk had been “liberated,” the protection ministry mentioned, after Russia earlier mentioned its forces had captured villages round Lysychansk and encircled town.

Ukraine’s navy command mentioned its forces had been pressured to retreat from town.

“The continuation of the protection of town would result in deadly penalties. With a purpose to protect the lives of Ukrainian defenders, a choice was made to withdraw,” it mentioned in an announcement on social media.

Ukrainian officers, who say references to “liberating” Ukrainian territory are Russian propaganda, had reported intense artillery barrages on residential areas.

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“Ukrainian forces seemingly performed a deliberate withdrawal from Lysychansk, ensuing within the Russian seizure of town on July 2,” analysts on the Institute for the Examine of Battle, a Washington-based suppose tank, wrote in a briefing notice.

They based mostly their evaluation on footage displaying Russia forces strolling casually in northern and japanese neighborhoods of Lysychansk, saying it recommended few or no Ukrainian forces remained. It mentioned the footage included photographs posted on social media and geolocated to substantiate the place it was filmed.

West of Lysychansk in Donetsk area, at the least six individuals had been killed when the Ukrainian metropolis of Sloviansk was hit by highly effective shelling from a number of rocket launchers on Sunday, native officers mentioned.

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1000’s of civilians have been killed and cities leveled since Russia invaded on Feb. 24, with Kyiv accusing Moscow of intentionally concentrating on civilians. Moscow denies this.

Russia says what it calls a “particular navy operation” in Ukraine goals to guard Russian audio system from nationalists. Ukraine and its Western allies say it is a baseless pretext for its flagrant aggression that goals to grab territory.

Whereas Russia would attempt to body its advance in Luhansk as a major second within the warfare, it got here at a excessive value to Russia’s navy, mentioned Neil Melvin of the London-based suppose tank RUSI.

“Ukraine’s place was by no means that they may defend all of this. What they’ve been making an attempt to do is to decelerate the Russian assault and trigger most harm, whereas they construct up for a counteroffensive,” he mentioned.

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Russia’s protection ministry additionally mentioned on Sunday it had struck navy infrastructure of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest metropolis within the northeast, the place a Reuters reporter mentioned Ukrainian forces had been constructing fortifications after nightly shelling.

Exterior a faculty in Kharkiv, some residents threw particles into a big crater created by an early morning rocket strike whereas others obtained assist repairing broken homes.

“The spouse was fortunate that she wakened early within the morning as a result of the roof fell precisely the place she had been sleeping,” one resident, Oleksii Mihulin, advised Reuters.

About 70 km (44 miles) from Kharkiv on the Russian aspect of the border, Russia additionally reported explosions on Sunday in Belgorod, which it mentioned killed at the least three individuals and destroyed houses.

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“The sound was so robust that I jumped up, I wakened, obtained very scared and began screaming,” a Belgorod resident advised Reuters, including the blasts occurred round 3 a.m. (0000 GMT).

Moscow has accused Kyiv of quite a few assaults on Belgorod and different areas bordering Ukraine. Beforehand, Kyiv has mentioned such incidents as payback for Russia pounding Ukrainian city areas into rubble.


Ukraine mentioned its air power had flown some 15 sorties “in just about all instructions of hostilities,” destroying gear and two ammunition depots.

Within the Russian-occupied southern Ukrainian metropolis of Melitopol, Ukrainian forces hit a navy logistics base with greater than 30 strikes on Sunday, town’s exiled mayor Ivan Fedorov mentioned. A Russian-installed official confirmed that strikes had hit town.

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Reuters couldn’t independently confirm the battlefield stories.

Ukraine has repeatedly appealed for an acceleration in weapons provides from the West, saying its forces are closely outgunned.

Talking on a go to to Kyiv, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese mentioned his authorities would supply Ukraine with extra armored autos, in addition to tightening sanctions towards Russia.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz advised broadcaster ARD on Sudan that Germany was discussing with its allies safety ensures for Ukraine after the warfare, although it was clear these would “not be the identical as if somebody had been a member of NATO.”

(Extra reporting by Reuters bureaux and Leah Millis in Kharkiv; Writing by Lincoln Feast and Aidan Lewis; Modifying by William Mallard, Edmund Blair and Raissa Kasolowsky)

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