Here Chechen soldiers cheer in Lysychansk

Shoigu has informed President Vladimir Putin that the Russian forces, along with local separatist militias, have taken full control of Lysychansk and thus the entire province of Luhan, according to Russian news agencies.

This is what it looks like in Lysychansk Sunday. (Luhansk region military administration via AP)

For weeks, Ukrainian forces have been fighting fiercely to prevent the Russians from occupying the city, as they did with the neighboring city of Sevierodonetsk a week ago.

Lysychansk was the last pocket in Luhansk province that Ukraine still had control over, and a Russian occupation of the city would be an important breakthrough to take control of the entire Donbas and other parts of eastern Ukraine.

Conflicting messages

In recent days, there have been conflicting reports about the status of Lysychansk.

The governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Hajdaj, acknowledged on Sunday that Russian forces had gained a foothold in the city, but claimed that they still had control.

A representative of the Ukrainian authorities tells the news agency AP that the fate of the city will be decided within a few days.

Tsjesjernere

The Chechen leader, Ramzan Kadyrov, on Sunday published videos of Chechen forces cheering with Russian soldiers and claiming control of the city.

Allahu Akbar is celebrated and waved with Soviet and Russian flags.

Watch the video at the top of the case.

The day before, Ukraine rejected claims by Russian-backed separatists that the city was surrounded and that Ukrainian forces were locked up.

A residential house in Lysychansk set on Sunday 3 July.  (Luhansk region military administration via AP)

A residential house in Lysychansk set on Sunday 3 July. (Luhansk region military administration via AP)

– Forces pulled out

The American think tank Institute for the Study of War wrote in its latest report that Lysychansk had probably fallen already on Saturday, and that the Ukrainian forces had been withdrawn. They referred to verified photos of Russian soldiers walking calmly north and southeast of the city.

Yuri Sak, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Defense Ministry, denies the Russian allegations, but acknowledges to the BBC that the situation in the city has long been difficult and that the Russians are attacking without delay.

Lysychansk is located on a hill and is thus easier to defend than Sievjerodonetsk on the other side of the river. On Saturday, Ukraine announced that the Russians had managed to cross the river for the first time, which created a new threat to Lysychansk.

Focus on the Donbas

Luhansk and Donetsk are the two provinces that make up the Donbas. Since the Russians had to withdraw from the areas around Kyiv and Kharkiv, they have concentrated on gaining control of the two provinces.

A burnt-out tank is abandoned by the roadside outside Sivierodonetsk, which is the twin city of Lysychansk.  Photo: REUTERS / Alexander Ermochenko

A burnt-out tank is abandoned by the roadside outside Sivierodonetsk, which is the twin city of Lysychansk. Photo: REUTERS / Alexander Ermochenko

In February, days before the invasion of Ukraine, Russia recognized the two provinces as independent “people’s republics”. Russia has stated that the main goal is to gain control of the Donbas, which will mean that they get land connection with the Crimean peninsula, which they annexed in 2014.

Large parts of Donetsk are still in Ukrainian hands. The next city to be exposed to a Russian offensive is Slavyansk. This is where the Ukrainian provincial administration for Donetsk is located.

Slavyansk is already exposed to intense artillery fire, and on Sunday new attacks and clouds of smoke were reported rising above the city.

The mayor of the city says many have been killed.

Russian bases attacked

On Sunday night, the city of Melitopol was also shaken by a series of powerful explosions, probably a Ukrainian attack on bases in the city.

Melitopol’s Ukrainian mayor Ivan Fedorov says at least 30 rockets were fired at one of the city’s four military bases and that the base has been taken out of service. The information could not be verified by independent sources.

He says that military equipment and several oil depots were hit, which led to a number of explosions in the hours that followed, and that a Russian train with supplies to the occupying forces derailed.

Melitopol is located in the province of Zaporizhia and was occupied by Russian forces shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February.

Prosecutor Ukraine

Earlier Sunday, the governor of Belgorod, Vyacheslav Gladkov, said at least four people had been killed and four wounded in a series of explosions in the city. Eleven apartment blocks and 39 houses in five streets in the city were damaged in the explosions, according to Gladkov.

At the same time, Russia accuses Ukraine of firing rockets at the Russian city of Belgorod, not far from the border with Ukraine, on Sunday night. At least four people have been killed.

Russia has repeatedly accused Ukraine of invading Russian territory, especially in the Belgorod region. Ukraine denies the allegations.

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