Russians Claim Victory in Crucial Holdout City

Lysychansk, last holdout city in Luhansk province, appears to have fallen
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 3, 2022 9:40 AM CDT
Russians Claim Victory on Way to Controlling Donbas
In this photo provided by the Luhansk region military administration, burned car and damaged residential buildings are seen Sunday in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine.   (Luhansk region military administration via AP)

(Newser) – Russian forces took control Sunday of the last major Ukrainian-held city in Ukraine's Luhansk province, Russia's defense minister said, bringing Moscow closer to its stated goal of seizing all of Ukraine's Donbas region. Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that Russia's troops together with members of a local separatist militia "have established full control over the city of Lysychansk," a ministry statement said, per the AP. Taking Lysychansk constitutes "the liberation of the Luhansk People's Republic," one of two separatist regions in Ukraine that Russia recognizes as sovereign, the statement said.

Ukrainian fighters spent weeks trying to defend Lysychansk and keep it from falling to Russia, as neighboring Sievierodonetsk did a week ago. Ukrainian officials did not immediately provide an update on its status. Earlier Sunday, Luhansk's governor said Russian forces were strengthening their positions in a grueling fight to capture the last stronghold of resistance in the province. "The occupiers threw all their forces on Lysychansk. They attacked the city with incomprehensibly cruel tactics," Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said on the Telegram messaging app. "They suffer significant losses but stubbornly advance."

An occupation of Lysychansk would open the way for the Russians to move west into Donetsk province, where the sizable Ukrainian-held city of Slovyansk has come under rocket attacks several times since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk are the two provinces that make up the Donbas, where Russia has focused its offensive since pulling back from northern Ukraine and the capital, Kyiv, in the spring. Pro-Russia separatists have held portions of both eastern provinces since 2014, and Moscow recognizes all of Luhansk and Donetsk as sovereign republics. Syria's government said Wednesday that it would also recognize the "independence and sovereignty" of the two areas.

(Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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