Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his army to continue its offensive in eastern Ukraine after Kremlin forces took control of almost all of the Lugansk region as they crossed into Ukrainian territory of Donbass.
On July 4, Putin said Russian forces “must carry out their tasks in accordance with previously approved plans” and said they should continue to advance throughout the region “as happened in Luhansk.”
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Ukrainian forces withdrew from the bombed city of Lysychansk late on July 3, prompting Russia to claim full control of the eastern Luhansk region, although Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has vowed to regain lost ground.
“If the commanders of our army withdraw people from certain points of the front, where the enemy has the greatest advantage in firepower, and this also applies to Lysychansk, this means only one thing: that we will return thanks to our tactics, thanks to the increased supply of modern weapons,” he said in his July 3 nighttime video.
After failing to take the capital, Kyiv, Russia revised its military focus on eastern Ukraine with the aim of capturing the Donbass, made up of Luhansk and Donetsk regions.
The General Staff of the Ukrainian army said on July 4 that Russian forces are currently concentrating their efforts on pushing towards the line of Siversk, Fedorivka and Bakhmut in the Donetsk region.
The Russian army also intensified its shelling of the main Ukrainian strongholds of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk deeper in Donetsk.
On July 3, six people, including a 9-year-old girl, were killed in the Russian shelling of Sloviansk and 19 others were injured, local authorities said. Kramatorsk also came under fire on July 3.
Earlier, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported to Putin that the Russian army had taken all the territory of the eastern region of Luhansk in eastern Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry said. , according to TASS.
Recognizing the withdrawal from Lysychansk, the Ukrainian military command said it had decided to withdraw to save the lives of its soldiers.
Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Hayday told Reuters on July 4 that the withdrawal from Lysychansk had been “centralized” and orderly, and was necessary to save the lives of Ukrainian soldiers who risked being surrounded.
“In military terms, it is wrong to leave positions, but there is nothing critical [in the loss of Lysychansk]. We must win the war, not the Battle of Lysychansk,” Hayday said.
“It hurts a lot, but it’s not losing the war,” he said, adding that he expected Sloviansk and the town of Bakhmut in particular to come under attack.
“Nevertheless, for them, the No. 1 objective is the Donetsk region. Sloviansk and Bakhmut will be attacked; Bakhmut has already started to be shelled very hard,” he said.
Meanwhile, on the diplomatic front, Zelenskiy and Prime Minister Denys Shmygal spoke at a conference in the Swiss city of Lugano about the need for the international community to support Ukraine as it tries to rebuild after destruction caused by war.
Shmygal, on a rare trip outside Ukraine since the start of the conflict, told the summit that “we believe that the main source of recovery should be the confiscated assets of Russia and the Russian oligarchs”, which he has estimated between 300 and 500 billion dollars. .
“The Russian authorities started this bloody war. They caused this massive destruction and they should be held accountable.”
Zelenskiy, speaking via video link from Kyiv, said the reconstruction efforts in his country were at the service of the whole world.
“To rebuild Ukraine is to restore the principles of life, to restore living spaces, to restore what makes people human,” he said.
With reports from Reuters, AP, TASS and dpa