Ukraine said on Friday its forces may need to withdraw from the last pocket of resistance in Luhansk to avoid being captured by Russian forces, prompting a rapid advance in the east that changed the momentum of the three-month-old war.
The withdrawal could bring Russian President Vladimir Putin closer to his goal of capturing all of Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk regions. His forces gained territory in the two regions known together as Donbass while bombarding some towns and turning them into wasteland.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russian forces entered Severodonetsk, the largest Donbass city still under Ukraine control, after trying to corner Ukrainian forces there for several days. Gaidai said 90% of the buildings in the town were damaged.
“The Russians will not be able to capture the Luhansk region in the coming days as analysts predicted,” Gaidai said on Telegram, referring to Sievierodonetsk and its twin city Lysychansk across the Siverskiy Donets River.
We will have sufficient strength and resources to defend ourselves. However it is possible that in order not to be trapped we have to retreat.”
Moscow separatist agents said they now control Lyman, a railway hub west of Severodonetsk. Ukraine said Russia had captured most of Lyman but its forces were blocking advances to Sloviansk, a city half an hour’s drive to the southwest.
During the night, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Aristovich said that the well-organized attack on Lyman showed that the Moscow army, which was expelled from the capital Kyiv in March, is improving its tactics and operations.
at great cost
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Bloomberg that Putin “is costing himself and the Russian army a heavy cost, continuing to manipulate the land in the Donbass.”
Russian forces advanced after breaching Ukrainian lines last week in the city of Popasna, south of Severodonetsk. The British Ministry of Defense said that Russian ground forces have now captured several villages northwest of Popasna.
Reuters journalists he contacted in Russian-controlled territory on Thursday were in ruins. The swollen body of a dead man in combat fatigues was seen lying in the yard.
Natalia Kovalenko had left the basement where she was sheltering to live under the rubble of her apartment, her windows and balcony were blown out. She said a shell hit the yard outside, killing two people and wounding eight.
I just have to fix the window somehow. “The wind is still bad,” she said. “We are tired of being so afraid.”
Russia’s eastern gains following a Ukrainian counterattack drove Russian forces to retreat from Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, in May. But the Ukrainian forces were unable to attack the Russian supply lines to the Donbass.
On Thursday, Russian forces bombed parts of the city of Kharkiv for the first time in days. Local authorities said nine people were killed. The Kremlin denies targeting civilians.
In the south, where Moscow has controlled swathes of territory since the February 24 invasion, including the strategic port of Mariupol, Ukrainian officials believe Russia aims to impose permanent rule.
Ukraine’s military says Russia is shipping military equipment from Russia-annexed Crimea to build defenses against a Ukrainian counterattack, and it is mining the banks of a reservoir behind a dam on the Dnipro River separating troops.
Struggling to leave
The governor of the Ukrainian region, Henady Lagota, said in a media briefing that the Russian forces in the Kherson region, in the north of the Crimea, are fortifying their defenses and bombing the areas controlled by Ukraine on a daily basis.
He said that the humanitarian situation is critical in some areas and people find it almost impossible to leave the occupied territories except for a convoy of 200 cars that left on Wednesday.
On the diplomatic front, EU officials said a deal could be reached by Sunday to ban shipments of Russian oil by sea, which accounts for about 75% of the bloc’s supply, but not through the pipeline, a compromise to win Hungary and lift new sanctions. .
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has criticized the European Union for its reluctance to ban Russian energy, saying the union is funding Moscow’s war efforts and that the delay “only means more Ukrainians are being killed.”
In a phone call with Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehamer, Putin stuck to his position that the global food crisis caused by the conflict could only be resolved if the West lifted sanctions.
Nahamer, who visited Russia in April, said Putin had expressed his willingness to discuss a prisoner exchange with Ukraine but said, “If he’s really willing to negotiate is a complicated question.”
Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports has halted grain shipments, driving up world prices, with major grain exporters in both countries. Russia accuses Ukraine of mining the ports, describing the Russian position as “blackmail”.
Russia, which has described its invasion as a “special military operation”, launched its offensive in part to ensure that Ukraine did not join the US-led NATO military alliance.
But the war prompted Sweden and Finland, who had been neutral throughout the Cold War, to apply to join NATO in one of the most significant changes to European security in decades.
The efforts of the northern countries have been bogged down by opposition from NATO member Turkey, which maintains that it harbors people linked to an armed group it considers a terrorist organization. Swedish and Finnish diplomats met in Turkey on Wednesday in an attempt to resolve their differences.
“It is not an easy process,” a senior Turkish official told Reuters on Friday, adding that Sweden and Finland must take “difficult” steps to win Ankara’s support. “More negotiations will continue. But the date does not look very soon.”
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