Europe

Ukraine war: Five important developments to know for Sunday

1. Russian forces claim control of Lysychansk

Russia claimed control Sunday over the last Ukrainian stronghold in an eastern province that is key to achieving a major goal of its grinding war.

Ukraine’s General Staff of the military reported that its forces had withdrawn from Lysychansk in Luhansk province, but the president said the fight for the city was ongoing.

If confirmed, Russia’s complete seizure of Luhansk would provide its forces a stronger base from which to press their advance in neighboring Donetsk province and bring them one step closer to achieving one of President Vladimir Putin’s major goals: capturing the entire Donbas.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin that Russia’s troops, with members of a local separatist militia, “have established full control over the city of Lysychansk” and now hold all of Luhansk, according to a ministry statement published Sunday.

As is typical with such descriptions, the Russian statement characterized the victories as “the liberation of the Luhansk People’s Republic.” Separatists in Luhansk and Donetsk, which make up the Donbas and have significant Russian-speaking populations, declared independence from Kyiv in 2014, and Russia formally recognized their self-proclaimed republics days before its invasion of Ukraine on 24 February.

Ukrainian and Russian forces have fought fiercely for Lysychansk in recent days after neighboring Sievierodoentsk fell last week. On Sunday evening, the General Staff of Ukraine’s military confirmed on social media that its forces had withdrawn from Lysychansk “to preserve the lives of Ukrainian defenders.”

2. Australia PM visits Ukraine, promises more military aid

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese pledged on Sunday to increase military support to Ukraine, including the delivery of new armoured vehicles, in the first trip to Kiev by an Australian head of government.

“Australia will announce today an additional $100 million in military support, bringing our overall support to almost $390 million,” he said at a press briefing with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kiev. He did not confirm whether he meant Australian dollars or US dollars. 

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Anthony Albanese said Canberra would provide “14 more armoured personnel carriers and 20 more Bushmaster tanks”, as well as drones and assistance to Ukrainian border guards.

He added that Canberra planned to introduce new economic sanctions targeting Russia, as well as “travel bans on 16 more ministers and oligarchs, bringing the total to 843 individuals and 62 entities targeted by Australia”.

“We will ban the import of Russian gold to reduce Russia’s ability to finance its war,” he said, adding that he was “very honoured to be the first Australian Prime Minister to visit Ukraine.

PM Albanese visited Butcha, Irpine and Gostomel on the outskirts of Kyiv, which have become symbols of the atrocities of war. “Clearly, civilian areas have been targeted by Russian forces in this immoral and illegal war,” he said.

Mr Albanese also said Russian President Vladimir Putin would receive “the welcome he deserves” if he attends the G20 summit in November in Bali, Indonesia. 

President Zelenskyy praised Australia’s “considerable assistance, particularly in the area of defence”.

3. Six dead, 15 wounded in rocket attack on eastern Ukraine city

The mayor of the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk said that a rocket attack on Sunday left “six dead and 15 wounded”.

“The provisional toll from today’s shooting is six dead and 15 wounded. Among the dead, there is a child,” Vadim Liakh said on Facebook, confirming earlier reports. 

He said several districts of the city, which had a population of about 100,000 before the war, had been hit.

“Multiple rocket fire on Sloviansk, the biggest for a long time. There are fifteen fires. Many dead and wounded,” he initially said in a video posted on Facebook.

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Tetiana Ignatchenko, a spokeswoman for the Donetsk region to which Sloviansk belongs, reiterated the authorities’ call for residents to leave the region, even though the front line is only a few kilometres from Sloviansk.

According to Ukrainian media, one of the city’s markets was on fire following the strikes.

Further south, the town of Kramatorsk, the administrative centre of the Ukrainian-controlled Donbass, was hit for the second consecutive day by Smertch rockets, according to the town’s mayor Oleksandr Goncharenko.

The strikes, which hit a residential area and an unoccupied hotel, did not cause any casualties, he said.

Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, two cities with high symbolic value, are under direct threat from Russian forces, especially if the capture of Lyssychansk, further north-east, claimed by Russia on Sunday, is confirmed by Kiev, which says fighting is continuing there.

4. Moscow accuses of Ukraine of firing on the city of Belgorod

The Russian military said it had shot down three Ukrainian missiles launched against the city of Belgorod, near Ukraine, at dawn on Sunday, where a local official had earlier said at least four people had died after explosions.

“Russian anti-aircraft defences shot down the three Totchka-U cluster munitions launched by Ukrainian nationalists against Belgorod,” Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said at his daily briefing.

“After the destruction of the Ukrainian missiles, the debris from one of them fell on a house in the city,” he continued.

He said the Russian military also shot down two Ukrainian TU-143 drones “loaded with explosives” and headed for the town of Kursk, also near the Ukrainian border.

In a video released midday on Sunday, the governor of the Belgorod region, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said that the explosions in Belgorod had left at least four people dead and four injured.

Earlier, he said that 11 residential buildings and 39 houses were damaged in the five streets affected by the blasts in northern Belgorod, not far from the city centre.

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Since the start of the Kremlin’s offensive in Ukraine on 24 February, Russia has repeatedly accused Ukrainian forces of carrying out strikes on Russian soil, particularly in the Belgorod region.

5. Ukrainians destroy Russian base at Melitopol

The Ukrainian military “decommissioned” a Russian military base in the southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol on Saturday night, its exiled mayor said.

“Today, Ukrainian military forces disabled one of the Russian military bases” in the city, Ivan Fedorov said in a video posted on Telegram.

“At 03:00 and 05:00, 30 strikes were aimed exclusively at the military base,” he added, noting that “the city of Melitopol is covered in smoke” and that “this has been going on for several hours because a fuel depot that was on the base is burning.”

A spokesman for the Ukrainian general staff announced on Sunday morning that the Ukrainian air force had carried out some 15 sorties, particularly in the Zaporizhia region, to which Melitopol belongs, and that “some 20 enemy equipment units and two ammunition depots” had been destroyed.

Yevgeny Balitsky, the head of the region’s pro-Russian administration, said on Telegram that houses near the base had been damaged and that “shells fell on the territory of the airfield”, while assuring that “there are no injuries”.

Ukrainian media published several videos from social networks showing a huge column of smoke rising into the air near Melitopol.

Melitopol was conquered by Russian forces in the early days of Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine and a pro-Russian administration was quickly installed there.

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