Russia says it now has control of 97% of Ukraine’s Luhansk vicinity – National

Russia says it now has control of 97% of Ukraine’s Luhansk vicinity – National

Russia on Tuesday claimed to have taken control of 97 per cent of one of the two provinces that make up Ukraine‘s Donbas, bringing the Kremlin closer to its goal of fully capturing the eastern industrial heartland of coal mines and factories.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow’s forces keep up nearly all of Luhansk province. And it appears that Russia now occupies approximately half of Donetsk province, according to Ukrainian officials and military analysts.

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After abandoning its bungled attempt to storm Kyiv two months ago, Russia declared that taking the complete Donbas is its main objective. Moscow-backed separatists have been battling Ukrainian government forces in the Donbas since 2014, and the vicinity has borne the brunt of the Russian onslaught in recent weeks.

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Early in the war, Russian troops also took control of the complete Kherson vicinity and a large part of the Zaporizhzhia vicinity, both in the south. Russian officials and their local appointees have talked about plans for those regions to either declare their independence or be folded into Russia.

But in what may be the latest example of anti-Russian sabotage inside Ukraine, Russian state media said Tuesday that an explosion at a cafe in the city of Kherson wounded four people. Tass called the apparent bombing in the Russian-occupied city a “terror act.”

Before the February invasion, Ukrainian officials said Russia controlled some seven per cent of the country, including the Crimean Peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014, and areas held by the separatists in Donetsk and Luhansk. Last week, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Russian forces now keep up 20 per cent of the country.

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While the Kremlin’s forces have superior firepower, the Ukrainian defenders are entrenched and have shown the ability to counterattack.

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Shoigu, the Russian defense minister, said Moscow’s forces have seized the residential quarters of Sievierodonetsk and are fighting to take control of an industrial zone on the city’s outskirts and nearby towns.

Sievierodonetsk and nearby Lysychansk have seen heavy fighting in recent weeks. They are among a few cities and towns in the Luhansk vicinity nevertheless holding out against the Russian invasion, which is being helped by local pro-Kremlin forces.

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Shoigu additional that Russian troops were pressing their offensive toward the town of Popasna and have taken control of Lyman and Sviatohirsk and 15 other towns in the vicinity.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak urged his people not to be downhearted about the battlefield reverses.

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“Don’t let the news that we’ve ceded something scare you,” he said in a video address. “It is clear that tactical maneuvers are current. We cede something, we take something back.”

Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai conceded that Russian forces control the industrial outskirts of Sievierodonetsk.

“The toughest street battles continue, with varying degrees of success,” Haidai said. “The situation regularly changes, but the Ukrainians are repelling attacks.”

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Moscow’s forces also kept up their artillery barrage of Lysychansk. Haidai said Russian troops shelled a market, a school and a college building, destroying the latter. at the minimum three people were wounded, he said.

“A total destruction of the city is underway. Russian shelling has intensified considerably over the past 24 hours. Russians are using scorched-earth tactics,” Haidai said.

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While insisting on Ukraine’s need to defeat Russia on the battlefield, Zelenskyy said at a Financial Times conference Tuesday that he is nevertheless open to peace talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He also lamented that Western sanctions “have not really influenced the Russian position,” the FT reported.

Meanwhile, the U.S. military has begun training Ukrainian forces on the complex multiple rocket launchers that the Biden administration agreed last week to provide. The Pentagon said the training is going on at a base in Germany and in other places in Europe.

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The High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, or HIMARS, is mounted on a truck and can carry a container with six rockets, which can travel about 45 miles (70 kilometers). Officials said it would take about three weeks of training before they could go to the battlefront.

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The war also brought a standoff Tuesday between the head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency and Ukrainian authorities over the biggest nuclear strength plant in Europe.

The director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, wants to visit the Zaporizhzhia plant in southern Ukraine to help continue its safety after it was taken by Russian troops in March.

But Energoatom, the Ukrainian state company overseeing the country’s nuclear plants, said in a blunt statement that Grossi isn’t welcome. It said his planned tour is “however another attempt to legitimize the occupier’s presence there.”

Amid fears of a global food crisis because of the war, the Kremlin said Ukraine needs to remove sea mines near its Black Sea port of Odesa to allow basic grain exports to begin again from there.

But Ukrainian officials have expressed concern that removing the mines could permit Moscow’s forces to attack.

© 2022 The Canadian Press

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