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Russia captures Lysychansk, Ukraine’s last holdout in Luhansk Oblast

July 3, 2022 8:29 pmby Asami Terajima
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Russia captures Lysychansk, Ukraine’s last holdout in Luhansk OblastPlumbs of smoke are seen rising to the sky during heavy fighting between Ukrainian forces with Russian troops in Lysychansk, Luhansk Oblast on July 1, 2022. (Photo by Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Russian forces have captured Lysychansk, the final Ukrainian holdout in Luhansk Oblast, after heavy fighting, both sides confirmed on July 3. 

The General Staff of the Ukrainian military reported in the evening that its troops were forced to withdraw from Lysychansk after fierce fighting, a significant victory for Moscow whose gains have been slow and costly since it launched its full-scale invasion on Feb. 24. 

Ukraine’s military said that continuing to defend Lysychansk would lead to “fatal consequences” amid Russia’s advantage over artillery power, ammunition and troop number. 

“A will of steel and patriotism are not enough for success – material and technical resources are needed,” Ukraine’s General Staff said in a Facebook post. 

Read also: As Ukraine withdraws from Sievierodonetsk, Battle of Donbas enters next phase

Seizing Lysychansk brings Russia extremely close to capturing Luhansk Oblast, one of the two administrative regions that make up the Donbas region, where Moscow has focused its offensive since pulling back from northern Ukraine and Kyiv in spring. 

Ukraine’s officials and its military had been denying Moscow’s claims of seizing Lysychansk and encircling the remaining Ukrainian troops left in the strategic city despite the situation looking increasingly dire. 

Shortly before the General Staff’s report emerged, President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Lysychansk had not fallen yet, but had admitted that there are risks that the entire Luhansk Oblast will be occupied and that situation is "difficult."

Earlier in the day, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu claimed that Russia captured Lysychansk and the whole Luhansk Oblast. 

Many reports of Russian forces taking control of Lysychansk had been emerging on the internet since July 2, including BBC’s report that Russian-backed millitants had successfully entered the city and reached its center. Russian media also showed videos of Russian forces apparently parading through the streets.

Other reports also suggested that Ukrainian troops have already left the city. The Washington-based think tank Institute for the Study of War (ISW) reported on July 2 that Ukrainian forces have likely deliberately withdrawn from Lysychansk, allowing Russian forces to seize it.

The report cites geolocated footage showing Russian soldiers casually walking around northern and southeastern neighborhoods in Lysychansk as if there are either few or no Ukrainian troops in the city.

Earlier, Communications Director of Luhansk Oblast Administration Albina Kusheleva told the Kyiv Independent that about 15,000 civilians remain in Lysychansk, hiding in basements and bomb shelters as civilian evacuation is currently “impossible.”

A week ago, on June 25, Lysychansk's twin city of Sievierodonetsk on the opposite bank of the Siversky Donets River had fallen to Russian forces after weeks of bloody street fighting and months of withering bombardment. 

The ISW report said that Russian forces will likely establish control over the remaining territory of Luhansk Oblast “in the coming days,” after which they will likely shift their focus on capturing more land in Donetsk Oblast. 

Asami Terajima
Author: Asami Terajima

Asami Terajima is a national reporter at the Kyiv Independent. She previously worked as a business reporter for the Kyiv Post focusing on international trade, infrastructure, investment and energy.

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