LAST UPDATE: 11.03
The Ukrainian army has confirmed that the eastern city of Lisitsansk has fallen into the hands of Russian forces, as reported by the BBC.
“After fierce fighting for Lisitsansk, the defense forces of Ukraine were forced to withdraw from their positions,” the army’s general staff said.
Earlier, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russian forces had captured Lisitsansk and taken full control of the Luhansk region.
The general staff also stated that “in order to preserve the lives of Ukrainian defenders, the decision was made to withdraw.”
He further stated that the Russians had multiple advantages in artillery, aircraft, manpower and other forces.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky vowed that Ukrainian forces would return to Lisitsansk thanks to their tactics and “thanks to an increase in the supply of modern weapons.”
Earlier, the head of the Chechens, Ramzhan Kadyrov, released a video showing Chechen fighters in the center of Lisichansk.
Further west, the Ukrainian-controlled city of Sloviansk came under heavy shelling, killing at least six.
It is located in the Donetsk region, which together with Luhansk forms the Donbass.
Shortly before launching the war, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized Luhansk and Donetsk as independent “People’s Republics”.
A little over a week ago Russian troops captured Severodonetsk, a city reduced to rubble after weeks of intense Russian shelling.
The fall of Lisitsansk is by no means the end of the fighting in Donbass. Ukraine still controls large urban areas in Donetsk. Forces there have prepared new defense lines between Bakhmut and Sloviansk – although these too are now under heavy Russian shelling. Both sides are suffering heavy losses, the BBC notes.
Sloviansk and Kramatorsk are the two largest cities in the Donetsk region still in Ukrainian hands.
Heavy Russian shelling of Sloviansk on Sunday caused about 15 fires, Mayor Vadim Liach said, while video showed huge clouds of smoke rising over the city. He said it was the worst shelling there in recent times.
Lugansk governor says Moscow will now focus mainly on Donetsk region
Russia will now focus its efforts in its war in Ukraine on capturing Donetsk region after seizing neighboring Lugansk, the governor of Lugansk region said today.
Governor Serhiy Gaidai told Reuters in an interview that he expected mainly the cities of Sloviansk and Bakhmut to come under attack as Russia seeks to fully control the region known as Donbas in eastern Ukraine.
Russia maintains that it is in full control of the Luhansk region after Ukrainian forces withdrew from the city of Lisitsansk.
“In military terms, it is bad to give up positions, but there is nothing critical about (the loss of Lisitsansk). We need to win the war, not the battle for Lisitsansk,” Gaidai said.
“It hurts a lot, but it’s not like we’re losing the war,” he added.
He declared that the withdrawal from Lisitsansk was “centrally” done, adding that it was planned and carried out in an orderly manner, although Ukrainian forces risked being encircled.
“For them (Russian forces) the number one target is the Donetsk region. Sloviansk and Bakhmut will be attacked – Bakhmut is already being bombed very hard,” he said.