KYIV, Ukarine (AP) — Russian forces are storming the city of Lysychansk and its environs in an all-out effort to capture the last resistance stronghold in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province, the governor said on Saturday.
Ukrainian fighters have spent weeks trying to defend the city and prevent it from falling into Russia, as neighboring Sievierodonetsk did a week ago. Russia’s defense ministry said its forces have taken control of an oil refinery on the outskirts of Lysychansk in recent days, but Luhansk’s government Serhiy Haidai said on Friday that the battle over the facility continued.
“The occupying forces opened fire with all types of weapons available last day,” Haidai said in the Telegram messaging app on Saturday.
Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk are the two provinces that make up the Donbas region, where Russia has focused its offensive since it withdrew from northern Ukraine and the capital Kiev in the spring.
Pro-Russian separatists have occupied parts of both provinces since 2014, and Moscow recognizes all of Luhansk and Donetsk as sovereign republics. The Syrian government said on Wednesday it would also recognize the “independence and sovereignty” of the two areas and work to establish diplomatic relations with the separatists.
Four people were killed when Russian troops fired cluster munitions late Friday in Slovyansk, a major city in Donetsk still under Ukrainian control, Mayor Vadym Lyakh said on Facebook. He said the affected neighborhoods contained no potential military targets.
Elsewhere, early Friday, investigators combed the wreckage of a Russian airstrike on residential areas near the Ukrainian port of Odessa, which killed 21 people.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said three anti-ship missiles hit an apartment building in the small town of Serhiivka. Among the victims of Friday’s attack were four family members at a coastal campsite that was also hit, he said.
“I emphasize this is a deliberate direct Russian terror, and not a mistake or an accidental missile attack,” Zelenskyy said.
The Kremlin has repeatedly claimed that the Russian military is targeting fuel depots and military facilities, not residential areas.
Ukrainian authorities interpreted the rocket attack as retaliation for the withdrawal of Russian troops from a nearby Black Sea island, with both symbolic and strategic significance in the war that began with the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Moscow portrayed their departure from Snake Island as a “goodwill gesture” to help unblock grain exports.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war between Russia and Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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