Ukraine’s military on Sunday evening confirmed that the eastern city of Lysychansk has fallen to Russian forces. Russia has claimed its forces have taken full control of Luhansk province in eastern Ukraine, after capturing the final Ukrainian holdout of Lysychansk. Ukraine’s military command says its troops have been forced to retreat from Lysychansk, the last major Ukrainian-held city in the region.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged the withdrawal but said the fight for the city was still raging on its outskirts. He added that “Ukraine does not give anything back” and pledged to retake the city with more modern weapons. Citing his forces’ success in recapturing other territories, he promised: “There will be a day when we will say the same about Donbas” – referring to the eastern region made up of Luhansk and Donetsk. Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin that Luhansk had been “liberated”, the defence ministry said on Sunday. The Ukrainian army General staff said, “ After heavy fighting for Lysychansk, the defense forces of Ukraine were forced to withdraw from their occupied positions and lines.” Ukraine troops were outgunned there. The general staff further said, “in order to preserve the lives of Ukrainians defenders, a decision was made to withdraw.” Russians have various advantages in artillery, aircraft, manpower, and other forces. Lysychansk overlooks Severodonetsk, across the Seversky Donets river. Ukrainian fighters spent weeks trying to defend Lysychansk and to keep it from falling to Russia, the ways neighbouring Severodonetsk did just last week.
A river which separates Lysychansk from Severodonetsk, it was reported by an adviser to the Ukrainian President Oleksiy Arestovych, “that for the first time Russian military managed to cross the river from the north, creating a dangerous and threatening situation” There was this hope that built on high ground, it would provide a natural strong defense. But accessing that point was extremely difficult as the city had tight Russian security with Russian forces controlling most access in and out. The fall of Lysychansk does not mean the end of the fighting in Donbas. Though losing this city is seen as a setback in the east but Ukraine still controls large urban areas in neighboring Donetsk. Their forces have been preparing new defensive lines between Bakhmut and Slovyansk, though they both are under heavy shelling and both sides have had severe causalities. Slovyansk and Kramatorsk are the two biggest cities in the Donetsk region and are still in Ukrainian hands.
Russian separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the Donbas region since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014. Before the Russian invasion, separatists had created so-called people’s republics in both the portions of Luhansk and Donetsk, though they aren’t internationally recognized. Shortly before launching the invasion of Ukraine on 24th February, Russian President Vladimir Putin declared that both regions are dependent on Ukraine. The Russian leader initially targeted Kyiv and other major western cities once they began the invasion but they quickly refocused on the eastern Donbas region after its wider offensive stalled in late March. While Russia’s superior firepower has helped its advance, it was noted that Russian forces are likely to have a difficult time advancing in Donetsk beyond the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.