Destruction from a Russian missile in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut Destruction from a Russian missile in the Ukrainian city of Bakhmut 

Russia claims victory in Ukraine’s Luhansk region

Russian and separatist forces in eastern Ukraine claim to have taken the strategic city of Lysychansk, the last major stronghold in the Luhansk area, as Russia’s military appeared to step up efforts to take over the entire eastern Donbas region.

By Stefan J. Bos

Russia’s Chechnya region leader Ramzan Kadyrov has published a video claiming to show his soldiers in the city of Lysychansk.

In the film, one of their pro-Russia commanders declares the city is under complete Russian control, and that a clean-up operation is underway.

And on Sunday, Russia's defense minister Sergei Shoigu told Russian President Vladimir Putin that all of Ukraine's Luhansk region was “liberated.”

However, Ukraine’s defense ministry said Lysychansk is not under the "full control" of Russian forces and that intense battles continue in the region.

That was also confirmed by the mayor of the Ukrainian city of Sloviansk, a little more than an hour's drive west of Lysychansk.

Mayor Vadim Lyakh said on social media that his city was hit by powerful shelling from multiple rocket launchers on Sunday. He said there are 15 fires and that there are, in his words, “many killed and wounded” following what he called “the most powerful recent shelling” of the city.

Russia’s denial

Moscow has consistently denied targeting civilian sites, despite footage and eyewitnesses suggesting it does.

Russia’s Defence Ministry also claimed Sunday to have used high-precision weapons to destroy five command posts in Ukraine’s Donbas and Mykolayev regions.

It also said three ammunition depots were hit in the vicinity of Zaporizhzhia and a Ukrainian weapons base in Kharkiv.

The incidents occurred as people plunged into mourning after an apartment block was hit earlier in the Odessa area, killing at least 21 people and injuring dozens.

Moscow denied Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s claim that it was a 'deliberate' attack.

At the same time, Russian authorities said Ukrainian forces attacked a border city inside Russia, killing four.

Strikes in Russia

Russia’s defense ministry blamed Ukraine for the blasts in the city of Belgorod, the deadliest known episode affecting civilians in Russia since the war began.

While Ukraine has hit fuel and military targets in Russia’s border region, this is the first time that Moscow has accused Kyiv of targeting a significant city center on the Russian side of the border.

Russian officials said Ukraine had fired three Soviet-era missiles at Belgorod that were all shot down by Russian air-defense systems.

But they claimed that one of the missiles fell to the ground in central Belgorod, causing the destruction. The claims were not yet independently verified.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has been ongoing for more than four months.

And Sunday’s clashes suggested a further escalation of the war, which had already claimed tens of thousands of lives.

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03 July 2022, 16:44