Putin Declares Victory in Region

Ukraine expects a push against Donetsk next
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 4, 2022 4:25 PM CDT
Russia Says It Holds Luhansk
Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu's report Monday in the Kremlin in Moscow.   (Mikhail Klimentyev, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP)

(Newser) – Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday declared victory in the eastern Ukrainian region of Luhansk, one day after Ukrainian forces withdrew from their last remaining bulwark of resistance in the province. Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Putin in a televised meeting Monday that Russian forces had taken control of Luhansk, which together with the neighboring Donetsk province makes up Ukraine's industrial heartland of Donbas. Shoigu told Putin that "the operation" was completed on Sunday after Russian troops overran the city of Lysychansk, the AP reports, the last stronghold of Ukrainian forces in Luhansk.

Putin, in turn, said that the military units "that took part in active hostilities and achieved success, victory" in Luhansk, "should rest, increase their combat capabilities." Putin's declaration came as Russian forces tried to press their offensive deeper into eastern Ukraine after the Ukrainian military confirmed that its forces had withdrawn from Lysychansk on Sunday. Serhii Haidai, governor of Luhansk, said on Monday that Ukrainian forces had retreated from the city to avoid being surrounded. "There was a risk of Lysychansk encirclement," Haidai told the AP, adding that Ukrainian troops could have held on for a few more weeks but would have potentially paid too high a price.

The Ukrainian General Staff said Russian forces were now focusing their efforts on pushing toward the line of Siversk, Fedorivka, and Bakhmut in the Donetsk region, about half of which is controlled by Russia. The Russian army has also intensified its shelling of the key Ukrainian strongholds of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, deeper in Donetsk. On Sunday, six people, including a 9-year-old girl, were killed in the Russian shelling of Sloviansk, and another 19 people were wounded, local authorities said. Kramatorsk also came under fire on Sunday. An intelligence briefing Monday from the British Defense Ministry supported the Ukrainian military's assessment, noting that Russian forces will "now almost certainly" switch to capturing Donetsk. The briefing said the conflict in Donbas has been "grinding and attritional," and is unlikely to change in the coming weeks.

(Read more Russia-Ukraine conflict stories.)

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