Zelenskiy concedes troops withdrew from Lysychansk

Kyiv’s military said it had retreated from positions in the city but president vows they will return

Moscow has said its troops have seized the eastern Ukrainian city of Lysychansk, completing its occupation of the Luhansk region, and accused Kyiv’s forces of launching a deadly missile strike on a Russian city.

Kyiv’s military said it had retreated from positions in the city in the face of Russia’s superior artillery power and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy late last night conceded the troops had withdrawn, but vowed to return.

Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu told his president, Vladimir Putin, their country’s troops had “established full control over the city of Lysychansk”, which he said signified “the liberation of the Luhansk People’s Republic” – a militia-run pseudo-state that Russia recognised as independent before its full invasion of Ukraine in February.

After Russia’s military was driven back from Kyiv and other major Ukrainian cities, the Kremlin shifted focus to seizing the Luhansk and Donetsk regions – which together make up the Donbas area – where artillery power is vital to seizing cities dotted around open plains.

Mr Zelenskiy earlier said: “There is a risk that Luhansk region will be fully occupied . . . But you should also realise that the situation may change on a daily basis.”

The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said that “after heavy fighting for Lysychansk” its troops “were forced to withdraw from their positions”, citing Russia’s ability to deploy more artillery, rocket systems, warplanes and troops.

“In order to save the lives of Ukrainian defenders, a decision was made to withdraw,” the general staff added.

Western weapons are helping Ukraine slow the advance of Russia’s military, which is now expected to target Slovyansk and Kramatorsk in Donetsk region, both of which suffered rocket strikes yesterday – at least six people were killed in Slovyansk.

Russia accused Ukraine of targeting its border city of Belgorod with cluster munitions after officials said four people were killed when an apartment building was hit by fragments of three rockets that were shot down by the region’s air defences.

Kyiv did not comment on the allegation.

After overnight explosions in occupied Melitopol in southern Ukraine, the city’s exiled pro-Kyiv mayor, Ivan Fedorov, said a Russian base at its airport had been destroyed.

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe