Ukraine: Russian attack on the city of Lysychansk

SLOVIANSK, Ukraine — The local governor said on Monday that Russia has launched an all-out attack on the last Ukrainian stronghold in Luhansk in the eastern region, “raising fire” from the ground and air on the city of Lysychansk. The leaders met to discuss ways to provide support to Kiev.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said Russian forces had hit Lysychansk in recent days after capturing the nearby town of Sievierodonetsk. It is part of a reinforced Russian offensive to wrest the wider Donbass region from the Ukrainian government’s control, Western experts say.

“They are shooting at the city both from the air and from the ground. After the capture of Sievierodonetsk, the enemy army concentrated all its forces to capture Lysychansk, our last stronghold in the Luhansk region,” Haidai told the Associated Press.

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

Last week, the Russian army captured several villages and towns southeast of Lysychansk.

President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office announced that at least six civilians were killed and 31 injured in heavy Russian shelling of various cities, including Kyiv and major cities in the south and east of the country, in the past 24 hours.

He said Russian rocket attacks had overnight killed two and injured five in Kharkiv and surrounding areas, Ukraine’s second-largest city. Russian forces also continued to target the important southern port of Odessa with a missile attack that destroyed residential buildings and injured six people, including a child.

The southern city of Mykolaiv also saw Russian shells hit civilian infrastructure, including a kindergarten, the presidential press office said in a statement. He did not provide details of the victims.

Haidai said at least five tall buildings and the last road bridge in the city were damaged in the last day in Lysychansk. A crucial highway connecting the city to the government-controlled area further south was rendered impassable by the shelling – but not captured, he said.

Haidai warned that the shelling also made it increasingly difficult to evacuate civilians. The town’s pre-war population was about 100,000, of which about half remains.

Analysts say Lysychansk’s location on the banks of the Siverskiy Donets River and its large hilltop area give the city’s Ukrainian defenders a huge advantage.

“It is a very difficult nut to crack. The Russians could take months and a lot of effort to attack Lysychansk,” military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said.

The Siverskiy Donets River surrounds Lysychansk from the north and east, while the Ukrainian army continues to hold lands west of the city, which it uses to provide weapons and humanitarian aid. Moscow now moved to blockade Lysychansk from the south.

In the west, in the government-controlled city of Sloviansk, local officials accused Russian forces of detonating a cluster munition that hit a residential area after dawn on Monday.

Authorities say the number of dead and injured will be confirmed; AP saw a death. A man’s body was hunched over the frame of a car door, blood dripping from the wounds scattered across his chest and head. A woman covered in blood and bandages was sitting by the side of the road, waiting for the paramedics to arrive.

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

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

OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

– The British Ministry of Defense predicted that the Russian army will increasingly rely on reserves for its war in Ukraine.

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

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

Analysts said such a call in Russia could significantly change the balance of the war, but could have political ramifications for President Vladimir Putin’s government, who still describes the Russian invasion as a “special military operation” in Ukraine.

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

Mr. Zelensky spoke via video link to the G7 summit on Monday, but there were few immediate details in the closed session.