Correspondent in Moscow
The Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoiguaccording to its press department, informed President Vladimir Putin on Sunday that Russian troops and units of the separatist forces have managed to bring the entire Lugansk region under their control, thus, in order to fulfill the objective set by the Kremlin to occupy all of Donbass, it would now be necessary to finalize the capture of the Donetsk province.
Previously it had been reported that detachments sent from Chechnya by the president of this Russian republic, Ramzán Kadírov, had entered the town of Lisichansk, the last Ukrainian stronghold in Lugansk. The forces of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic (LNR) also claimed to have taken part in the assault on Lisichansk, which has been particularly fierce and bloody, with heavy casualties on both sides.
The Russian Ministry of Defense also maintains that the Ukrainians are surrounded after taking over the towns of Verjnekamenka, Zolotariovka and Belogorovkaall of them also in the Lugansk region and around Lisichansk.
However, the Ukrainian Defense Ministry declared that “Lisichansk is not yet completely in the hands of Russian troops”, although it admitted at the same time that the Ukrainian Army has withdrawn some of its troops from the area. According to the kyiv Army General Staff, “Ukrainian positions in Lisichansk are under heavy Russian shelling, but claims that they are surrounded are not true.” The governor of the Lugansk loyal to kyiv, Sergei Gaidaisuggested that Ukrainian troops were giving ground in Lisichansk, since, in his words, the Russians “are attacking the city with inexplicably brutal tactics (…) everything is flattened and on fire.”
The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) stated that Ukrainian forces “probably” withdrew from Lisichansk in an orderly manner on Saturday night and the city came under Russian control. The goal of the Ukrainian forces would now be to regroup and organize resistance elsewhere. In any case, the apparent loss of Lisichansk it does not mean the end of the Russian campaign in Donbass.
Ukraine still controls large urban areas in the neighboring Donetsk region and its forces are erecting new defensive lines between Bakhmut and Sloviansk, both of which are also subject to merciless and continuous bombardment by Russian multiple launchers as is Kramatorsk. Sloviansk Mayor Vadim Liaj said his city is experiencing “the biggest bombardment” in recent times. The spokeswoman for the Regional Administration, Tatiana Ignátchenko, spoke of six civilians killed and fifteen wounded as a result of the explosions. The shells also fell in one of the Sloviansk markets.
Attack on Russian regions
At the same time, the Russian Defense Ministry yesterday accused kyiv of attacking the Russian regions of Kursk and Belgorod, whose governor, Viacheslav Gladkov, assured that four people perished in the attack. According to the Russian military spokesman, General Igor Konashenkov, “Russian anti-aircraft defenses shot down three Totchka-U missiles launched by Ukrainian nationalists against Belgorod. After the interception and destruction of the Ukrainian missiles, the remains of one of them fell on a house.
On the other hand, Iván Fiódorov, mayor of Melitopol, a city currently occupied by Russian troops, in the Ukrainian region of Zaporizhia, declared that the Ukrainian Army managed on Saturday to destroy with missiles one of the four military bases, located on an airfield, which Russia has in the region.
The Ukrainian forces already lost on June 24 the city of Severodonetsk, Lisichansk’s twin and located opposite, on the other bank of the river, Severski Donets. They had to retreat precisely to Lisichansk to avoid being pocketed. However, analysts insist that the control of Severodonetsk and now Lisichansk will not be a significant turning point in the war. The Russian Army and the separatist forces, weakened by the casualties and the effort deployed so far, still have the conquest of most of the Donetsk region ahead of them.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism