- Ukraine rejects allegations that the city is besieged
- “Stay in the shelters!” Mayor of Mykolaiv informs residents
- Ukrainian forces say Russian artillery has flattened buildings
- Zelensky stresses the need to maintain determination
- Moscow repeats denials of targeting civilians
Kyiv/KONSTANTINIVKA, Ukraine (Reuters) – Fighting intensified on Saturday in Lysechansk, Ukraine’s last stronghold in the strategic eastern Luhansk region, as explosions rocked a southern city after the civilian death toll from Russian strikes escalated in towns behind the front. lines.
Rodion Miroshnik, the ambassador of the pro-Moscow Luhansk People’s Republic to Russia, told Russian television that “Lisechansk has been taken over,” but added: “Unfortunately, it has not yet been liberated.”
Russian media showed videos of the Luhansk militia parading through the streets of Lyschansk, waving flags and chanting, but Ukrainian National Guard spokesman Ruslan Mozychuk told Ukrainian national television that the city was still in the hands of the Ukrainians.
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“Now there are fierce battles near Lysichansk, but fortunately the city is not besieged and is under the control of the Ukrainian army,” Muzychuk said.
He said that the situations in the Lysychansk and Bakhmut regions, as well as in the Kharkiv region, were the most difficult on the entire front line.
“The enemy’s goal here is to reach the administrative borders of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Also, in the direction of Slovensk, the enemy is trying to carry out offensive operations,” he said.
Oleksandr Senkevich, mayor of the Southern District of Mykolaiv, which borders the vital Black Sea port of Odessa, reported strong explosions in the city.
“Stay in the shelters!” He wrote on the Telegram messaging app as the air raid sirens sounded.
It was not immediately clear what caused the blasts, although Russia later said it had targeted army command posts in the area.
Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.
Authorities said a rocket hit an apartment building near Odessa on Friday, killing at least 21 people. On Monday, a mall in the central city of Kremenchuk was bombed, killing at least 19 people.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned the strikes on Friday as “a deliberate targeting of Russian terrorism and not some kind of mistake or accidental missile strike.”
In his nightly televised address on Saturday, he said it would be a “very difficult path” to victory, but that it was necessary for the Ukrainians to maintain their resolve and inflict losses on “the aggressor … so that every Russian would remember that Ukraine could not be.” broken.”
“In many areas of the front there is a sense of relief, but the war is not over yet,” he said. “Unfortunately, the situation is getting worse in different places and we must not forget this. We must help the army, volunteers and help those who are left alone at this time.”
Kyiv says Moscow has intensified its missile attacks on cities far from the main eastern battlefields and that it has deliberately bombed civilian sites. Meanwhile, Ukrainian forces on the eastern front described intense artillery shelling that hit residential areas.
Thousands of civilians have been killed and flattened since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov repeated Russia’s denials of its forces targeting civilians.
The Russian Defense Ministry said the Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, Valery Gerasimov, was inspecting Russian forces participating in what Moscow calls its “special military operation”, although it was not clear if he was in Ukraine.
The inspection followed slow but steady gains from Russian forces aided by relentless artillery in eastern Ukraine, a focus for Moscow after it narrowed its broader war aims to overthrow the government in the wake of fierce Ukrainian resistance.
Russia is seeking to expel Ukrainian forces from the Luhansk and Donetsk regions of the eastern Donbass industrial region, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Kyiv since Russia’s first military intervention in Ukraine in 2014.
“Certainly they are trying to demoralize us. Some people may be affected by this, but for us it only brings more hatred and determination,” said a Ukrainian soldier returning from Lysekhansk.
houses are burning
Russian forces took control of the sister city of Severodonetsk last month, after some of the fiercest battles of the war devastated entire neighborhoods to rubble. Other settlements are now facing similar bombardment.
“Private houses in the villages that were attacked are burning one by one,” Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said in a telegram bombing that prevented Lysichansk residents from putting out the fires.
Ukraine has called on the West to get more weapons, saying the Russian military is far superior to its own.
Speaking in Konstantinevka, a trading town 115 kilometers (72 miles) west of Lysekhansk, the troops said they were able to keep the supply route to the besieged city open, for now, despite Russian bombing.
“We still use the road because we have to, but it is within range of Russian artillery,” said one of the soldiers, who usually lives in Kyiv and asks not to be named, while comrades are resting nearby, eating sandwiches or eating ice cream.
The soldier said, “Now the Russian tactic is to bomb any building we can locate ourselves in. And when they destroy it, they move on to the next building.”
Reuters reporters saw an unexploded missile hit the ground in a residential neighborhood on the outskirts of the Donbass city of Kramatorsk on Saturday evening.
The missile fell in a wooded area between residential towers. Police and the army cordoned off an area a few meters around the rocket and told onlookers to stand back. Artillery fire and several large explosions were heard in the center of Kramatorsk earlier this evening.
Although battered in the east, Ukrainian forces made some advances elsewhere, including forcing Russia to withdraw from Snake Island, a Black Sea outcrop southeast of Odessa that Moscow captured at the start of the war.
Russia used Snake Island to impose a blockade on Ukraine, one of the world’s largest grain exporters and a major producer of vegetable oil seeds. The upheaval helped increase global grain and food prices.
Russia, also a large grain producer, denies it caused the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for hurting its exports.
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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Lincoln Fest, Edmund Blair, Ron Popesky, and David Bronstrom; Editing by William Mallard, Catherine Evans, Matthew Lewis and Jonathan Otis
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