Day 130 of the Invasion of Ukraine: The Last Bastion in the East may FallUkraine | July 3, 2022, Sunday // 11:16| views
Here are the highlights of events related to the war in Ukraine over the past 24 hours:
Kyiv: The last bastion in eastern Ukraine may fall
Fighting for Lysychansk, Ukraine's last major bastion in the strategic eastern province of Luhansk has intensified. The advisor to President Volodymyr Zelensky, Oleksiy Arestovych, admitted that the city could fall, Reuters reports.
Russia has been seeking to push Ukrainian forces out of Luhansk and Donetsk regions in the Donbas, where Moscow-backed separatists have been battling Kyiv since Russia's first military intervention in Ukraine in 2014.
Ukrainian troops on the eastern frontline described intense artillery shelling of residential areas, while Kyiv said Moscow had stepped up missile attacks on towns far from the main eastern battlegrounds, accusing Russia of deliberately hitting civilian targets.
Thousands of civilians have been killed and cities razed to the ground since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what Ukraine and its Western allies say is an unprovoked war of aggression. Russia denies targeting civilians as part of what President Vladimir Putin calls a "special military operation" to demilitarize and "denazify" its neighbor.
Last month, Russian forces captured Lysychansk’s sister city of Sievierodonetsk, located on the opposite bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, after some of the heaviest fighting of the war.
Rodion Miroshnik, ambassador to Russia of the pro-Moscow self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic, told Russian television: "Lysychansk is under control," but added: "Unfortunately, it has not been liberated yet."
Russian media published a video showing Luhansk militia marching through the streets of Lysychansk, waving flags and cheering, but Ukraine's National Guard spokesman Ruslan Muzychuk told Ukrainian television that the city remained in Ukrainian hands.
"At the moment, fierce fighting is taking place near Lysychansk, but fortunately the city is not surrounded and is under the control of the Ukrainian army," Muzychuk said.
Zelensky's adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, said Russian forces had finally crossed the Siverskyi Donets River and were approaching the city from the north.
"It is indeed a threat. We will see. I am not ruling out any of the exit options. Things will become much clearer in a day or two," he said.
However, Arestovych said that taking Lysychansk would complicate strategic matters for the Russians, as they would have to focus on six major cities in the industrialized eastern Donbas region, spreading their forces more thinly.
He added: "The more Western weapons come to the front, the more the picture changes in favor of Ukraine." Ukraine has repeatedly called for more weapons from the West, saying Russian forces are vastly superior to their own.
Fighting continues in other regions of the country
Away from the eastern fighting, Russia said it had struck army command posts in Mykolaiv, near the key Black Sea port of Odessa, where the mayor reported powerful explosions on Saturday.
Ukrainian authorities said another rocket hit an apartment block near Odessa on Friday, killing at least 21 people. A shopping mall in the central city of Kremenchuk was hit on Monday, killing at least 19 people.
Zelensky condemned Friday's strikes as "conscious, deliberately targeted Russian terror, not some mistake or an accidental missile hit."
In his late-night televised address on Saturday, Zelensky said the road to victory would be "very difficult" but Ukrainians must maintain their resolve and inflict losses on "the aggressor ... to remind every Russian that Ukraine cannot be broken".
Soldiers resting from fighting in Konstantinovka, a commercial town about 115 km west of Lysychansk, said they had so far managed to keep a supply route to the besieged city open despite Russian bombardment.
"We're still using the road because we have to, but it's within range of the Russians' artillery," one soldier said as others rested nearby.
"The Russian tactic right now is just to shell any building we can deploy in. When they destroy it, they move on to the next one," he said.
On Saturday evening, Reuters reporters saw an unexploded rocket embedded in the ground in a residential area on the outskirts of the Donbas city of Kramatorsk.
The rocket fell in a wooded area between residential blocks. Earlier in the evening, artillery fire and several large explosions were heard in the central part of Kramatorsk.
Although battered in the east, Ukrainian forces have made some progress elsewhere, including forcing Russia to withdraw from Snake Island, a Black Sea promontory southeast of Odessa that Moscow seized at the start of the war.
Russia was using Snake Island to impose a blockade on Ukraine, one of the world's largest grain exporters and a major producer of vegetable oil seeds. Supply disruptions have increased global fuel and grain prices.
Russia, also a major grain producer, blames the crisis on Western sanctions that are hurting its exports.
Explosions in Russia’s Belgorod
At least three people were killed and four were injured in Belgorod, where a series of thunders echoed early this morning, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov announced.
About 40 houses and 11 apartment blocks were damaged, five of which were completely destroyed. The reasons are being clarified. Anti-aircraft defenses are believed to have been activated.
The Ukrainian armed forces plan to continue attacking supply routes for Russian troops from Belgorod to the southern part of Kharkiv region, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War has predicted. The American HIMARS light multiple rocket launchers will also be used for this purpose.
Russian Senator Andrey Klishas blamed Ukraine for the defeats in Belgorod and called for a decisive military response.
Three Russian ships with 24 cruise missiles on board and two large amphibious ships are currently in the Black Sea, Ukrinform reported, citing the Southern Command of the Ukrainian Army.
Ukraine struck a Russian base in occupied Melitopol
Ukrainian forces today carried out more than 30 strikes on a Russian base in the Russian-occupied southern city of Melitopol, the Ukrainian mayor of the city, Ivan Fedorov, said, quoted by Reuters. A Russian official confirmed the Ukrainian strikes.
"At 3:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m., over 30 strikes were carried out exclusively on a military base," Fedorov, who is currently in Ukrainian-controlled territory, said in a Telegram video, adding that the base was "taken out of order".
Fedorov also said that the resistance movement managed to derail a Russian armored ammunition train near Melitopol yesterday.
The Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported that Ukraine had struck the Aviamistechko district of Melitopol, where the city's airport is located, but did not specify which sites were hit.
The agency quoted Russian-appointed local official Vladimir Rogov as saying that about 16-18 rockets hit Melitopol twice at 3:00 a.m. and 4:45 a.m. Moscow time.
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