Russia bombs Ukraine’s Donetsk region in pursuit of new gains after Luhansk capture

  • Russia sets fire to Donetsk region
  • The governor says there is no safe place there
  • Show captured Lysychansk visit destruction
  • Russia took control of the entire Luhansk region on Sunday
  • He predicts the next Donetsk battle

Slovenia/Kyiv (Kyiv) (Reuters) – Russian forces bombed targets across Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region on Tuesday, paving the way for an expected armored drive to try to seize more territory as the five-month-old war entered a new phase.

The strikes, reported by regional officials and the Russian military, followed Moscow’s takeover of the Ukrainian city of Lyschansk on Sunday, in a move that gave it full control of the Luhansk region, one of its main war targets.

Full control of Donetsk, the neighboring region of Donbas, the industrial eastern part of Ukraine that has become the scene of Europe’s largest battle in generations, is another goal of what Moscow calls its “special military operation”.

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The Ukrainian forces that withdrew from Lyschansk over the weekend adopted defensive lines in the Donetsk region on Tuesday, according to Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region. A spokesman for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said that the Ukrainian forces are resisting Russian attempts to advance towards Slovinsk.

In a foretaste of what is likely to continue in the coming weeks, Pavlo Kirilenko, the governor of the Donetsk region, said on television that his region was bombed overnight.

“Sloviansk and Kramatorsk were bombed. Now they are also the main line of enemy attack,” he said. “There is no safe place without bombing in the Donetsk region.”

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Police in Sloviansk said a woman was killed and at least three others wounded in a Russian raid on the market there. Reuters could not independently verify the report.

A Reuters reporter at the scene saw yellow smoke rising from a car supply store and flames engulfing rows of market stalls as firefighters tried to put out the flames.

Vadim Lyakh, the city’s mayor, wrote on Facebook that central and northern Slovensk had been bombed.

“Everyone stay in shelters!” he wrote.

The Russian Defense Ministry, which says it does not target residential areas, said it used high-precision weapons to destroy command posts and artillery in the Donetsk region, where Ukraine still controls a number of major cities.

President Vladimir Putin told the forces involved in the capture of Luhansk that would also be part of any attempt to take cities in Donetsk, to “rest and restore their military readiness”, while units in other parts of Ukraine continue to fight.

Both sides suffered heavy losses in the fighting for Luhansk, particularly during the siege of the twin cities of Lyschansk and Severodonetsk. Both are left dashing.

A Reuters reporter who visited Lyschansk on Monday found widespread destruction and underpopulation in a city that was once home to about 100,000 people. Read more

Those left to clear bullet-riddled Ukrainian police cars wreck local government buildings wrecked by shellfire and the golden dome of an Orthodox church.

Since the beginning of the conflict, Russia has demanded that Ukraine hand over both Luhansk and Donetsk to the Moscow-backed separatists, who have declared their independence.

Claim “The Last Victory”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told President Volodymyr Zelensky during a phone call on Tuesday that he believed the Ukrainian army could retake territory recently occupied by Russian forces.

Johnson briefed Zelensky on the latest shipments of British military equipment, including 10 self-propelled artillery systems and loitering munitions, which will arrive in the coming days and weeks, a Johnson spokesman said.

Oleksiy Aristovich, Zelensky’s adviser, said it took Russia 90 days and paid a heavy price to seize two medium-sized cities.

“This is the last victory of Russia on Ukrainian soil,” Aristovich said in a video posted on the Internet.

Besides the battle of Donetsk, he said, Ukraine hopes to launch counterattacks in the south of the country. He said Russia may struggle to redirect its forces there as 60% of them are now concentrated in the east.

“And there were no more troops that could be brought from Russia. They paid a heavy price to Severodonetsk and Lyschansk.”

Some military experts considered that the hard-won victory brought the Russian forces few strategic gains, and the outcome of the so-called “Battle of Donbass” remained in the balance.

“I think it’s a tactical victory for Russia but at an enormous cost,” said Neil Melvin of the RUSI think-tank in London.

Melvin said the decisive battle for control of Kyiv is likely not to be fought in the east, where Russia launches its main offensive, but in the south, where Ukraine has launched a counter-offensive to retake territory around Kherson.

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“There are counterattacks starting there and I think we are likely to see the momentum swing towards Ukraine where it then tries to launch a large-scale counterattack to push the Russians back,” he said.

The mayor, Oleksandr Senkevich, said that Russian missiles hit Mykolaiv, the southern city on the main highway between Kherson and Odessa, early Tuesday morning.

Zelensky said on Monday that despite Ukraine’s withdrawal from Lyschansk, its forces continue to fight.

“Ukrainian armed forces are responding, pushing and destroying the offensive capability of the occupiers day by day,” Zelensky said in a nightly video message.

“We need to break it. It’s a difficult task. It takes extraordinary time and effort. But we have no alternative.”

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Michael Perry and Andrew Osborne; Editing by Robert Percell and Thomas Janowski

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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