By Natalia Zenets and Conor Humphries
Kyiv / POPASNA (Reuters) – Russian separatist representatives in eastern Ukraine claimed full control of the critical town on the ground in Lyman on Friday, and Ukraine appears to have abandoned it as Moscow continued its biggest advance in the week.
Lyman, a major railway hub, has been a target on the front line as Russian forces push north, one of three directions through which they attack Ukraine’s Donbas industrial region. Pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk region said they now had full control of it.
Oleksiy Aristovich, an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, apparently confirmed Lyman’s fall in an interview posted on social media last night, saying the battle there showed that Moscow was improving its tactics.
“According to unverified data, we lost the city of Liman,” Aristovich said in a video, adding that the attack was well-organized. “This shows, in principle, an increase in the level of operational management and tactical capabilities of the Russian army,” he said.
Pavlo Kirilenko, the Ukrainian governor of the Donetsk region, told Ukrainian radio station Hromadsky that Lyman “had largely fallen under the control of Russian forces” but that the Ukrainian army had been deployed to new positions in the region.
After pushing Russian forces from the capital Kiev in March and from the outskirts of Kharkiv, the second largest city, earlier this month, they are now making their biggest advance in a few weeks in the eastern Donbass region.
Western military analysts say this success could pave the way for a long-term conflict.
In the far east of the Ukrainian-controlled enclave, Russian forces are trying to encircle Ukrainian forces in the towns of Severodonetsk and Lyschansk after crossing Ukrainian lines south to the town of Popasna last week.
Popasna, in which Reuters reporters arrived in Russian-controlled territory on Thursday, was a scattered desert with high-rise apartment blocks and other devastated city municipalities as well.
Russian tanks and other military vehicles crossed the streets through scattered rubble under the cover of low-flying combat helicopters. The swollen body of a man in military uniform was seen lying in a yard.
Natalia Kovalenko had finally returned a few days ago from the basement where she was sheltering, to sleep in the ruins of her apartment, whose balcony was damaged and the windows had been blown up by a direct rocket strike.
She looked sad in the ruined yard, recounting how two people were killed there and eight were injured by a shell as they went out to cook. Inside her apartment, the kitchen and living room were littered with rubbish, but she arranged a small bedroom to sleep in after getting tired of being in the basement with dogs and cats.
“I have to fix the window somehow,” she said. The smell is still bad. It’s cold at night … we’m tired of being so scared. We are very tired. “
The British Ministry of Defense said Russian ground forces had taken control of several villages northwest of Popasna.
– “At any cost?”
Russian progress to the east follows a Ukrainian counter-offensive that pushed President Vladimir Putin’s forces out of Kharkiv this month. But Moscow prevented Ukrainian forces from attacking the rear rows of Russian supply lines in the Donbas.
On Thursday, Russian forces bombed parts of the city of Kharkiv for the first time in several days. Local authorities said nine people had died. Reuters photographed smoke clouds rising in the sky after shells exploded in a neighborhood. Shredded glass and pools of blood covered a crowded sidewalk. A garden canteen was destroyed and the windows of cafes and apartment buildings were blown up.
In the south, where Moscow has also occupied part of the territory since the occupation began on February 24, Ukrainian officials believe Russia intends to establish a permanent rule.
Ukraine’s southern command said Russia was sending military equipment from Crimea to build a third line of defense in preparation for a possible counterattack by Ukraine and was laying mines on the banks of a large reservoir behind a dam on the Dnipro River. , which forms a dividing line between the forces.
“All this shows that Russia will try to keep the occupied territories under its control.”
In an overnight speech, Zelensky criticized the European Union for its reluctance to impose a ban on Russian energy imports, saying the bloc was financing Moscow’s war effort at 1 billion euros a day.
“Pressure on Russia is literally a matter of saving lives. “And every day of procrastination, weakness, various disagreements or suggestions to ‘pacify’ the aggressor at the expense of the victim only means that more Ukrainians are being killed.”
US-led Western countries supplied Ukraine with long-range weapons, such as obusi M777. Kiev says it wants longer-range weapons, especially rocket launchers, that could help it win an artillery battle once again.