Russia ‘fires fire’ at Ukrainian town as offensive mounts


EDS NOTE: GRAPHIC CONTENT – The corpse of a man killed by Russian shelling lies near his car in downtown Slaviansk, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Monday, June 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)


Russia was mounting an all-out assault on Ukraine’s last stronghold in the eastern Luhansk region, “firing fire” at the city of Lysychansk from the ground and the air, the local governor said on Monday, as Western leaders gathered to discuss ways to build support. for Kyiv.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said Russian forces were battling Lysychansk after capturing the nearby town of Sievierodonetsk in recent days. It’s part of a beefed-up Russian offensive to wrest the wider Donbass region from Ukrainian government control in what Western experts say has become the new primary focus of President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine, which is now in its final stages. fifth month.

“They are firing into the city both from the air and from the ground. After the capture of Sievierodonetsk, the enemy army concentrated all its forces on capturing (our) last stronghold in the Luhansk region: Lysychansk,” Haidai told The Associated Press.

The Russians were trying to blockade the city from the south, “destroying everything their artillery and multiple rocket launchers can reach,” Haidai said.

Over the past week, the Russian army has captured several villages and towns southeast of Lysychansk, now a staging area for airstrikes and shelling.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s office said at least six civilians had been killed and 31 others injured in heavy Russian shelling of various cities in the past 24 hours, including Kyiv and major southern and eastern cities. east of the country.

He said Russian rocket attacks left two dead and five injured overnight in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, and surrounding areas. Russian forces also continued to target the key southern port of Odessa, with a missile attack destroying residential buildings and injuring six, including a child, he added.

The southern city of Mykolaiv also saw Russian shells hit civilian infrastructure, including a kindergarten, the president’s press office said. He gave no details of the casualties.

In Lysychansk, at least five high-rise buildings in the city and the last road bridge were damaged over the past day, Haidai said. A crucial highway linking the city to government-controlled territory further south was rendered impassable by bombardment – but it was not captured, he said.

The shelling also makes it increasingly difficult to evacuate civilians, Haidai said. The town had a pre-war population of around 100,000, of which around half remain.

Analysts say Lysychansk’s location on the banks of the Siverskiy Donets River, as well as its vast hill-strewn area, give the city’s Ukrainian defenders a major advantage.

“It’s a very hard nut to crack. The Russians could spend many months and a lot of effort storming Lysychansk,” military analyst Oleh Zhdanov told the AP.

The Siverskiy Donets River surrounds Lysychansk to the north and east, while the Ukrainian military continues to hold territory west of the city, which it uses to supply arms and humanitarian aid. Moscow now moved in an attempt to blockade Lysychansk from the south.

To the west, in the government-controlled city of Sloviansk, local authorities accused Russian forces of firing a cluster bomb, saying it hit a residential area after dawn on Monday.

Authorities say number of dead and injured remains to be confirmed; the AP saw one death. A man’s body lay hunched over the frame of a car door, his blood dripping onto the floor from scattered wounds to his chest and head. A woman, bandaged and covered in blood, sat in shock on the side of the road, waiting for medics to arrive.

The shock wave from the blast blew out most of the windows of surrounding buildings and the cars parked below, littering the floor with shattered glass.

“Last week we saw an increase in the use of these cluster bombs,” said Sloviansk Mayor Vadim Lyakh, who was helping coordinate the emergency response. “As you can see, there is no military base here. It was a residential area where there were only civilians.

Local resident Valentina Vitkovska cried as she spoke of the impact of the blast.

“Everything is now destroyed. We are the only people still living in this part of the building. There is no power. I can’t even call to tell others what happened to us,” she said.


– Britain’s Ministry of Defense has said the Russian military will increasingly rely on reserve forces for its war in Ukraine.

The main focus of Russian operations remains in the Sievierodonetsk-Lysychansk region, but Moscow is now “trying to regain momentum on the northern axis of Izium”, the British Ministry of Defense said in its daily update. information.

The Russian government remains “reluctant to order a general mobilization”, the statement said.

Analysts said such a call in Russia could dramatically shift the balance of the war, but could also have political consequences for President Vladimir Putin’s government – which still calls Russia’s invasion a “special military operation.” ” in Ukraine.

“Over the coming weeks, Russia’s campaign will most likely rely increasingly on echelons of reserve forces,” he said.

– In Germany’s Bavarian Alps, leaders of the Group of Seven countries appeared ready to heed Zelenskyy’s call for more air defense systems after Russian troops hit Kyiv with long-range missiles on Sunday. The United States seemed ready to announce the purchase of an advanced surface-to-air missile system for Ukraine.

Zelenskyy spoke via video link to the G-7 summit on Monday, but immediate details were few in the closed-door uplink session.

– Moldova’s president traveled to neighboring Ukraine on Monday and visited the town of Bucha – the site of an alleged Russian massacre of civilians early in the war – among other Kyiv suburbs.

“No matter the economic costs, no matter the political costs, we have to stop the war and we have to make sure these kinds of atrocities never happen again,” Maia Sandu said. She said it was “heartbreaking” to hear the testimonies of witnesses and victims of war.

Sandu was due to meet Zelenskyy during his visit, his office posted on social media.


Karmanau reported from Lviv, Ukraine. Oleksandr Stashevskyi in Kyiv, Ukraine contributed to this report.

Lynn A. Saleh