Russian-backed separatists increase assault on Ukrainian city of Lysychansk

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Russian-backed separatists stepped up their battle connected the Ukrainian metropolis of Lysychansk connected Saturday, arsenic they claimed to person “completely” encircled the past stronghold successful the Luhansk region.

If Lysychansk falls, the full portion of Luhansk – which on with Donetsk makes up the eastbound Donbas portion – could travel nether Russian control, marking different strategical breakthrough for Vladimir Putin.

Andrei Marotchko, a spokesperson for the separatist forces, told the Russian state-owned quality bureau Tass: “Today the Luhansk fashionable militia and Russian forces occupied the past strategical heights, which allows america to corroborate that Lysychansk is wholly encircled.’’

The Guardian could not independently verify the claims. On Saturday Ruslan Muzychuk, spokesperson for Ukraine’s nationalist guard, told Ukrainian TV that, though of each the fronts, “the concern successful Lysychansk has been the astir difficult, the metropolis itself is not encircled and is controlled by Ukrainian forces”.

After having reduced its duplicate city, Sievierodonetsk, to rubble past week, Lysychansk became the caller absorption of the warring successful eastbound Ukraine. It has been nether changeless Russian artillery bombardments and airstrikes for weeks.

“Private houses successful attacked villages are burning down 1 by one,’’ Serhiy Haidai, the politician of the Luhansk region, wrote connected the Telegram messaging app connected Saturday. “With specified a precocious density of shelling, we lone person clip to structure the injured. Fires simultaneously successful respective places. We hardly person clip to destruct large-scale fires successful Lysychansk.’’

According to witnesses, the occupiers are destroying 1 location aft different with dense artillery, with residents hiding successful basements astir circular the clock.

The Russian defence ministry said its forces took power of an lipid refinery connected Lysychansk’s borderline successful caller days, but Haidai reported connected Friday that warring for the installation continued.

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In a abstracted development, a fig of almighty explosions rocked the metropolis of Mykolaiv successful confederate Ukraine aboriginal connected Saturday.

“There are almighty explosions successful the city! Stay successful shelters!” the Mykolaiv mayor, Oleksandr Senkevych, wrote connected Telegram.

Before the blasts, aerial raid sirens sounded successful the full Mykolaiv region, wherever connected Friday, according to Vitaliy Kim, the caput of the Mykolaiv determination subject administration, different 12 Russian missiles were fired, with astir of them intercepted by Ukrainian forces.

The origin of the blasts was not instantly clear, though Russia said connected Saturday it had deed service bid posts successful the area. “Russian forces destroyed 5 Ukrainian service bid posts successful the Donbas and successful the Mykolaiv portion with high-precision weapons,” the Russian defence ministry said connected Saturday.

At the opening of the invasion, Russian troops had practically encircled Mykolaiv and its larboard connected the Bug River. Moscow troops had seized its airdrome and were advancing from the north-east.

However, aft weeks of fighting, the Ukrainian service managed to propulsion the Russians back.

Since then, and for the past months, Mykolaiv, which alongside its charismatic governor, became a awesome of the country’s resistance, the warring has turned into a “war of rockets and artillery”.

According to Ukrainian authorities, Mykolaiv, which borders the captious larboard of Odesa, is regarded by Moscow arsenic a strategical people successful bid to scope its extremity to annex Ukraine’s Black Sea coast, making Ukraine a “non-sea country”.

On Friday, astatine slightest 21 radical including 2 children died aft 2 Russian missiles struck a multistorey artifact of flats and a recreation centre successful buildings successful the municipality of Serhiyivka, adjacent Odesa.

Video showed the charred ruins of buildings. The Ukrainian president’s bureau said 3 X-22 missiles fired by Russian warplanes struck a artifact of flats and a campsite soon earlier 1am section time.

Ukraine’s information work said a further 38 people, including six children and a large woman, were taken to infirmary with injuries. Most of those killed and injured were dormant erstwhile the missiles struck.

The onslaught came astatine the extremity of a week successful which Moscow has escalated its long-range attacks, hitting civilian targets acold from the frontline.

The Ukrainian prosecutor-general, Iryna Venediktova, said the investigators were recovering fragments from missiles and taking measurements to find the trajectory of the weapons. “We are taking each the indispensable investigative measures to find the circumstantial radical blameworthy of this unspeakable warfare crime,” Venediktova said.

Ukrainian authorities interpreted the onslaught arsenic payback for Russian troops being forced from the strategically important Snake Island a time earlier.

“The occupiers cannot triumph connected the battlefield truthful they edifice to vile sidesplitting of civilians,” Ivan Bakanov, the caput of Ukraine’s information service, the SBU, said of Friday’s attack. “After the force was dislodged from Snake Island, helium decided to respond with the cynical shelling of civilian targets.”

Russia portrayed the pullout from Snake Island arsenic a “goodwill gesture”. Ukraine’s subject said the Russians fled successful 2 speedboats aft a barrage of Ukrainian artillery and rocket strikes.

Kyiv accused Russia connected Saturday of dropping incendiary achromatic phosphorus connected Snake Island. White phosphorus, known arsenic WP, is simply a chemic that burns fiercely successful interaction with air, producing heavy achromatic acrid fume and a achromatic airy that tin beryllium utile for illumination. The precocious somesthesia astatine which it burns besides makes it an effectual incendiary instrumentality successful war.

Ukrainian unit were not connected the land astatine the clip of the onslaught and, according to subject experts, the Russians utilized it to pain the weapons and ammunition they near connected the land earlier their retreat.