Russia Claims Complete Control of Ukraine’s Luhansk Area

Russia claims complete control of Ukraine's Luhansk area
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Russia stated on Sunday that its troops had gained control of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk area after conquering the last Ukrainian stronghold of Lysychansk after intense combat, however Ukraine has not confirmed the assertion.

Control of Luhansk, a major war goal for Russia, would come after weeks of gradual progress, giving Moscow a minor political victory and shifting the fighting emphasis to the neighboring Donetsk area, where Ukraine still holds significant territory.

Following its withdrawal from the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv on February 24, Russia has focused its military effort on the Donbas, which includes the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk. Since Russia’s initial military incursion in Ukraine in 2014, Moscow-backed separatist proxies have been fighting there.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that Luhansk had been “liberated,” according to the defense ministry, after Russia had said that its troops had conquered towns around Lysychansk and ringed the city.

According to the minister, Russian soldiers and their partners in the region have “gained complete authority over the city of Lysychansk.”

Over the phone, Yuriy Sak, an adviser to Ukraine’s defense minister, told Reuters that he “cannot affirm that Lysychansk is completely under Russian control.” The press department of Ukraine’s defense ministry did not respond to a request for comment.

Ukrainian authorities have reported significant artillery barrages on civilian areas, claiming that allusions to “liberating” Ukrainian land are Russian military propaganda.

“Ukrainian troops presumably undertook a premeditated retreat from Lysychansk, ending in Russian capture of the city on July 2,” experts at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War stated in a briefing paper.

They based their estimate on film showing Russia soldiers roaming casually in Lysychansk’s northern and eastern neighborhoods, implying that few or no Ukrainian forces remained. According to the report, the video includes photographs shared on social media and was geolocated to determine where it was shot.

The Ukrainian city of Sloviansk, west of Lysychansk, was pounded by intense bombardment from multiple rocket launchers on Sunday, killing and injuring numerous people, according to the city’s mayor, Vadim Lyakh.

Since Russia’s invasion, thousands of people have been murdered and towns have been destroyed, with Kiev blaming Moscow of purposely targeting civilians. Moscow disputes this.

Russia claims that a “special military operation” in Ukraine is aimed at protecting Russian speakers from nationalists. Ukraine and its Western allies argue that this is a sham pretext for its flagrant aggression to seize territory.

While Russia would try to portray its advance in Luhansk as a watershed moment in the conflict, it occurred four months into the conflict and at a high cost to Russia’s military, according to Neil Melvin of the London-based think tank RUSI.

“Ukraine’s position was never that it could defend everything. They’ve been attempting to slow down the Russian assault and cause maximum damage while preparing for a counteroffensive “He stated.

According to a Reuters reporter, Russia’s defense ministry also said on Sunday that it had struck military infrastructure in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city in the country’s northeast, where Ukrainian forces have been digging in and building concrete fortifications after nightly shelling.

According to Ukraine, hundreds of people have been injured or killed in the area in recent weeks.

However, on the Russian side of the border, around 70 kilometers (44 miles) from Kharkiv, Russia reported explosions on Sunday in Belgorod that killed at least three people and damaged residences.

“The boom was so loud that I leapt up, woke up, was startled, and began shouting,” a Belgorod resident told Reuters, adding that the explosions happened at 3 a.m. (0000 GMT).

Moscow has accused Kiev of carrying out multiple assaults on Belgorod and other Ukrainian border towns. Ukraine did not respond immediately. Previously, Kiev has not claimed responsibility but has said that such acts are retaliation for Russia’s destruction of Ukrainian cities.

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