Ukraine news live: The Ukrainian flag has fallen on Snake Island – as Putin expected to focus his next assault on Donetsk | world news

Ukrainians hope the arrival of heavy artillery from the United States and Europe can help them reverse the trend in Donbass

Russian troops are stepping up their efforts to ensure full control of the entire Donbass region in eastern Ukraine – and from what we’ve seen, there’s very little that’s going to stop them right now , writes Sky’s special correspondent, Alex Crawford.

Much of the industrial heartland has already fallen to the Russian military, allowing President Vladimir Putin to declare a significant victory after his troops seized the Lugansk region with the capture of the city of Lysychansk, the last Ukrainian stronghold there.

The Russians already control most of Donetsk, the second half of Donbass and the signs indicate that they are moving to claim the rest.

Recent days have already seen an increase in attacks on the towns of Sloviansk and Bakhmut in the Donetsk region – and the frontline towns of Krasnohorivka and Marinka are also particularly vulnerable.

The areas have been fiercely contested for the past eight years and President Putin launched his “special military operation” in February after unilaterally declaring Donetsk and Luhansk “independent”.

Ukrainian troops we spoke to repeatedly told us that they felt overwhelmed and overwhelmed by the superior number of Russian heavy artillery they were being bombarded with.

They hope that the arrival of American and European heavy artillery supplied from abroad can help them to reverse the trend, but it may have come too late for the Ukrainians to be able to keep Donbass.

We are the first British journalists to be able to see the French-made Caesar howitzers which are now being used in an attempt to hold back the Russian army in the Donbass.

French President Emmanuel Macron has already provided 12 Caesars and after the G7 summit pledged to provide six more. Heavy artillery is highly valued for its accuracy and can hit targets much further away – up to 30 miles away.

The Ukrainian troops of the 55th Brigade that we saw using the Caesars told us that the howitzers are much more versatile and give them mobility that helps protect the crew.

The cannon can be ready to fire in about 60 seconds and in even less time (about 40 seconds) it can be on the move again to stay clear of enemy return fire.

The truck commander said his men spent 10 days learning to operate the armed truck in France. “What we need is more weapons like this,” he told us. “More people to help us train. All we need is more ammo and then we’ll do everything else on our own.”

They know they’re on the back foot right now, but there’s still a very high level of optimism about the long-term future here and he had that message for the Russians who are still busy celebrating their takeover. Luhansk. “It won’t be for long,” said the commander. “We’ll kick you out and get it all back.”

Read his full story here.

Lynn A. Saleh