Russian forces strike key city of Lysychansk

Capture would allow Russians to push deeper into the battleground Donbas region

A trenching machine on the main road to the Ukrainian city of Lysychansk. AFP
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Russian forces shelled the city of Lysychansk on Saturday in an effort to seize the last stronghold of resistance in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province, Governor Sergiy Gaiday said.

Ukrainian fighters have spent weeks defending the city to stop it from falling to Russian occupation, as neighbouring Severodonetsk did a week ago.

The capture of Lysychansk would allow Russian forces to push deeper into the battleground Donbas region, which has become the focus of their offensive since failing to capture Kyiv.

“Over the last day, the occupiers opened fire from all available kinds of weapons,” Mr Gaiday said on the Telegram messaging app.

There were competing claims from Moscow and Kyiv on Saturday that pro-Russia separatists have surrounded the city.

“Fighting rages around Lysychansk … The city has not been encircled and is the under control of the Ukrainian Army,” Ruslan Muzytchuk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Guard, said on Ukrainian television.

Earlier, Andrei Marotchko, a spokesman for the separatist forces, told the Tass news agency: “Lysychansk is completely encircled.”

Others cities were under fire, including Mykolaiv in the south and Sloviansk in the centre of the region.

“There are powerful explosions in the city! Stay in shelters!” Oleksandr Senkevych, mayor of the Mykolaiv region, which borders the vital Black Sea port of Odesa, wrote on Telegram.

The cause of the explosions was not immediately clear, although Russia later said it had hit army command posts in the area. Reuters could not independently verify the reports.

Rockets struck residential properties in Sloviansk in the heart of the Donbas, killing a woman in her garden and wounding her husband, a neighbour told AFP Saturday, describing debris that had showered the neighbourhood.

Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Ukraine was “suffering heavy losses on all fronts”.

More military aid is promised to Ukraine from the US and Europe.

The Pentagon said it was sending a new armament package worth $820 million, including two air defence systems and more ammunition for precision rocket launchers.

The EU has proposed €1bn of emergency funding, and Norway, which is not an EU member, also announced €1bn in humanitarian and military aid over the next two years.

Updated: July 02, 2022, 8:12 PM