On Sunday, Russia claimed control of the entire Lugansk region in eastern Ukraine after conquering the strategic city of Lysychansk at the cost of intense fighting.
At the same time, the Russian government accused Ukraine of killing three people by firing three missiles at a Russian town near the border between the two countries.
“Sergei Shoigu briefed the Commander-in-Chief of the Russian Armed Forces Vladimir Putin about the liberation of the Lugansk People’s Republic,” the Russian Defense Ministry reported, according to Russian news agencies.
On Sunday morning, the governor of the Lugansk region, Sergei Gaidai, hinted that Ukrainian forces had lost territory in the pre-war Lysychansk, a population of 100,000.
“The Russians are building a barricade in an area of Lysychansk, the city is on fire,” Gaidai said on Telegram.
“They are attacking the city with inexplicably brutal tactics,” he said.
The conquest of Lysychansk – if confirmed – would allow Russian troops to advance further west into Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, effectively securing control of the area that has been partially in the hands of pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
explosion in Russia
Russia also accused Kiev of launching missiles at the city of Belgorod, close to the border of the two countries.
“Russian anti-aircraft defense shot down three Totchka-U missiles launched by Ukrainian nationalists at Belgorod. After the destruction of the Ukrainian missiles, the remains of one of them fell on a house,” said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov. said.
The regional governor, Viacheslav Gladkov, had previously announced that at least three people were killed in violent explosions in that city.
Gladkov told the Telegram network that four people were injured in the explosions, 11 residential buildings and 39 houses were damaged.
Since the start of Russia’s offensive against Ukraine on February 24, the Russian government has repeatedly accused Ukrainian forces of carrying out attacks on Russian soil, especially in the Belgorod region.
In early April, Governor Gladkov accused Ukraine of attacking a fuel depot in Belgorod with two helicopters.
Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko also said his army has intercepted missiles launched from Ukraine amid rumors that Russia’s ally country is increasing its involvement in the war between its two neighbors.
“They are provoking us. I must say that about three days ago, maybe more, they tried to bombard military targets in Belarus,” Lukashenko said, according to the Belarusian state news agency Belta.
However, Lukashenko said he has no intention of “fighting in Ukraine”, which would mean an escalation of the conflict.
The mayor of Melitopol, a city in southern Ukraine controlled by Russian troops, announced on Sunday that the Ukrainian army had “defected” a Russian military base in the city on Saturday night.
Meanwhile, missiles continued to fall on Ukraine, killing dozens of people.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky referred to six attacks in his daily speech to the nation on Saturday night.
“Fierce fighting continues along the entire front line in Donbass,” he said, noting that “enemy activities in the Kharkov area have intensified.”
A resident in the small town of Donetsk told AFP that “the bombings continued day and night”.
According to local officials in Donetsk, two people were killed and three injured, two of them children, in the attack on the town of Dobropillya.
Bombs also fell on residences in Sloviansk, in the heart of Donbass, killing a woman in her garden and injuring her husband, a neighbor told AFP on Saturday.
Zelensky warned against a “feeling of relief” in many back towns.
“The war is not over. Unfortunately, its cruelty is only increasing in some places, and it cannot be forgotten,” he insisted.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Ukraine had suffered “heavy losses on all fronts”.
In his speech, Zelensky also referred to the conference on the reconstruction of Ukraine, which will start in Switzerland on Monday.
Leaders from a dozen countries and international organizations will meet in Lugano to chart a roadmap for liberating the war-torn country.
Rebuilding Ukraine “requires massive investments, billions, new technologies, best practices, new institutions and, of course, reforms,” Zelensky said.
The roadmap is expected to identify restructuring needs for a devastated infrastructure, a devastated economy, and immediate social and environmental recovery.
Rebuilding could cost hundreds of billions of dollars.