Russia bombs Ukraine’s Donetsk after seizing Luhansk region

  • Russia sets fire to Donetsk region
  • Governor says there is no safe place there
  • Show captured Lysychansk visit devastation
  • Russia took control of the entire Luhansk region on Sunday
  • Donetsk next battle

Kyiv (Reuters) – Russian forces bombed targets across Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region on Tuesday, preparing for an expected armored drive to try to seize more territory as the five-month-old war entered a new phase.

The strikes, reported by the region’s local governor and the Russian military, followed Moscow’s capture of the Ukrainian city of Lyschansk on Sunday, in a move that gave it full control of the Luhansk region, one of its main war targets.

Full control of Donetsk, the other region in Donbass, the industrial eastern part of Ukraine that has become the scene of Europe’s largest battle in generations, is another goal of what Moscow calls its “special military operation”.

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Ukrainian forces that withdrew from Lyschansk over the weekend adopted new defensive lines in Donetsk on Tuesday, according to Serhiy Gaidai, Ukraine’s governor of Luhansk.

In a preview of what might come next, Pavlo Kirilenko, the governor of the neighboring Donetsk region, said on television that his region had been bombed overnight.

“Sloviansk and Kramatorsk were bombed. Now they are also the main offensive line of the enemy from the direction of Lyman … There is no safe place without shelling in the Donetsk region,” he said.

The Russian Defense Ministry, which says it does not target residential areas, said it used what it called high-precision weapons to destroy command posts and artillery in Donetsk, where Ukraine still controls major cities.

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President Vladimir Putin told the forces involved in the capture of Luhansk that would also be part of any attempt to take cities in Donetsk, to “rest and restore their military readiness”, while units in other parts of Ukraine continue to fight.

Both sides suffered heavy losses in the fighting for Luhansk, particularly during the siege of the twin cities of Lyschansk and Severodonetsk. Both are left dashing.

A Reuters reporter who visited Lyschansk on Monday found widespread destruction and underpopulation in a city that was once home to about 100,000 people. Read more

Those left to scavenge the lead-encrusted Ukrainian police cars cause local government buildings to be destroyed by shell fire and the golden dome of a damaged Orthodox church.

Since the beginning of the conflict, Russia has demanded that Ukraine hand over both Luhansk and Donetsk to the Moscow-backed separatists, who have declared their independence.

Claim “The Last Victory”

“This is Russia’s last victory on Ukrainian soil,” Oleksiy Aristovich, an advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky, said in a video posted online.

“These were medium-sized cities. It took from April 4 to July 4 – 90 days. Lots of losses.”

Besides the battle of Donetsk, Aristovich said, Ukraine had hoped to launch counterattacks in the south of the country.

“The capture of cities in the east means that 60% of Russian forces are now concentrated in the east and it is difficult to redirect them to the south,” he said.

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No more troops could be brought in from Russia. They paid a heavy price to Severodonetsk and Lychansk.

Some military experts considered that the hard-won victory brought the Russian forces few strategic gains, and the outcome of the so-called “Battle of Donbass” remained in the balance.

“I think it’s a tactical victory for Russia but at an enormous cost,” said Neil Melvin of the RUSI think-tank in London. Compare the battle to the massive battles for the meager territorial gains that marked World War I.

“The Russians may declare some sort of victory, but the main war battle is yet to come,” he said.

Melvin said the decisive battle for control of Ukraine is likely not to take place in the east, where Russia is launching its main offensive, but in the south, where Ukraine has launched a counterattack to retake territory around Kherson.

“There are counterattacks starting there and I think we are likely to see the momentum swing towards Ukraine where it then tries to launch a large-scale counterattack to push the Russians back,” he said.

The mayor, Oleksandr Senkevich, said that Russian missiles hit Mykolaiv, the southern city on the main highway between Kherson and Odessa, early Tuesday morning.

Zelensky said on Monday that despite Ukraine’s withdrawal from Lyschansk, its forces continue to fight.

“Ukrainian armed forces are responding, pushing and destroying the offensive capability of the occupiers day by day,” Zelensky said in a nightly video message.

“We need to break it. It’s a difficult task. It takes extraordinary time and effort. But we have no alternative.”

Reporting from Reuters Borex. Written by Michael Perry and Andrew Osborne; Editing by Simon Cameron Moore, Robert Percell and Thomas Janowski

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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