Russia Takes Small Cities in Ukriane 05/28 08:59
Russia asserted Saturday that its troops and separatist fighters had
captured a key railway junction in eastern Ukraine, the second small city to
fall to Moscow's forces this week as they fought to seize all of the country's
contested Donbas region.
KRAMATORSK, Ukraine (AP) -- Russia asserted Saturday that its troops and
separatist fighters had captured a key railway junction in eastern Ukraine, the
second small city to fall to Moscow's forces this week as they fought to seize
all of the country's contested Donbas region.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the city of Lyman
had been "completely liberated" by a joint force of Russian soldiers and the
Kremlin-backed separatists, who have waged war in the eastern region bordering
Russia for eight years.
Lyman, which had a population of about 20,000 before Russia invaded Ukraine
on Feb. 24, serves as a regional railway hub. Ukraine's train system has
ferried arms and evacuated citizens during the war, and it wasn't immediately
clear how the development might affect either capability.
Controlling the city would give the Russian military a foothold for
advancing on larger Ukrainian-held cities in Donetsk and Luhansk, the two
provinces that make up the Donbas. Since failing to occupy Kyiv, Ukraine's
capital, Russia has concentrated on seizing the last parts of the region not
controlled by the separatists.
"If Russia did succeed in taking over these areas, it would highly likely be
seen by the Kremlin as a substantive political achievement and be portrayed to
the Russian people as justifying the invasion," the British Ministry of Defense
said in a Saturday assessment.
Fighting continued Saturday around Sievierodonetsk and nearby Lysychansk,
twin cites that are last major areas under Ukrainian control in Luhansk
province. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated that the situation
in the east was "difficult" but expressed confidence his country would prevail
with help from Western weapons and sanctions.
"If the occupiers think that Lyman or Sievierodonetsk will be theirs, they
are wrong. Donbas will be Ukrainian," he said.
On Tuesday, Russian troops took over Svitlodarsk, a small municipality south
of Sievierodonetsk that hosts a thermal power station, while intensifying
efforts to encircle and capture the larger city.
The governor of Luhansk had warned that Ukrainian soldiers might have to
retreat from Sievierodonetsk to avoid being surrounded, but he said Saturday
that they had repelled an attack.
"We managed to push back the Russians to their previous positions," Gov.
Serhii Haidai said. "However, they do not abandon their attempts to encircle
our troops and disrupt logistics in the Luhansk region."
The advance of Russian forces raised fears that residents would experience
the same horrors as people in the southeastern port city Mariupol in the weeks
before it fell.
Sievierodonetsk's mayor, Oleksandr Striuk, said Friday that some 1,500
civilians have died there during the war, including from a lack of medicine or
because of diseases that could not be treated while the city was under siege.
Before the war, Sievierodonetsk was home to around 100,000 people. About
12,000 to 13,000 remain in the city, where 90% of the buildings are damaged,
the mayor told The Associated Press.
Just south of Sievierodonetsk, volunteers worked to evacuate people Friday
amid a threatening soundtrack of air raid sirens and booming artillery. AP
reporters saw elderly and ill civilians bundled into soft stretchers and slowly
carried down apartment building stairs in Bakhmut, a city in northeast Donetsk
Svetlana Lvova, the manager of two buildings in Bakhmut, tried to convince
reluctant residents to leave but said she and her husband would not evacuate
until their son, who was in Sieverodonetsk, returned home.
"I have to know he is alive. That's why I'm staying here," Lvova, 66, said.
A nearly three-month siege of Mariupol ended last week when Russia claimed
the city's complete. The city became a symbol of mass destruction and human
suffering, as well as of Ukrainian determination to defend the country. More
than 20,000 of its civilians are feared dead.
Mariupol's port reportedly resumed operations after Russian forces finished
clearing mines in the Azov Sea off the once-vibrant city. Russian state news
agency Tass reported that a vessel bound for the southern Russian city of
Rostov-on-Don entered Mariupol's seaport early Saturday.
Meanwhile, the Ukrainian navy said Saturday morning that Russian ships
"continue to block civilian navigation in the waters of the Black and Azov
seas" along Ukraine's southern coast, "making them a zone of hostilities."
The war in Ukraine has caused global food shortages because the country is a
major exporter of grain and other commodities. Moscow and Kyiv have traded
blame over which is responsible for keeping shipments tied up, with Russia
saying Ukrainian sea mines prevented safe passage.
The press service of the Ukrainian Naval Forces said in a Facebook post that
two Russian missile carriers "capable of carrying up to 16 missiles" were ready
for action in the Black Sea. It said that only shipping routes which had been
established through multilateral treaties could be considered safe.
Ukrainian officials pressed Western nations for more sophisticated and
powerful weapons, especially multiple launch rocket systems. The U.S. Defense
Department would not confirm a Friday CNN report saying the Biden
administration was preparing to send long-range rocket systems to Ukraine.
Russia's U.S. ambassador on Saturday branded such a move as "unacceptable"
called on the Biden administration to "abandon statements about the military
victory of Ukraine."
A Telegram post published on the Russian embassy's official channel cited
Anatoliy Antonov, Moscow's top diplomat in Washington, as saying that "the
unprecedented pumping of weapons into Ukraine significantly increases the risks
of an escalation of the conflict."
In Russia on Saturday, President Vladimir Putin signed into law a bill that
raises the age limits for Russian army contracts. Contractors can now first
enter service until age 50 and work until they reach legal retirement age,
which is 65 for men and 60 for women.
Previously, Russian law set an age limit of 40 for Russians and 30 for
foreigners to sign an initial contract.
Russia's Defense Ministry said the Russian navy successfully launched a new
hypersonic missile from the Barents Sea. The ministry said the recently
developed Zircon hypersonic cruise missile had struck its target about 1,000
If confirmed, the launch could spell trouble for NATO voyages in the Arctic
and North Atlantic. Zircon,, described as the world's fastest non-ballistic
missile, can be armed with either a conventional or a nuclear warhead, and is
said to be impossible to stop with current anti-missile defense systems.
Moscow's claims, which could not be immediately verified, came a week after
Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu announced that Russia would form new military
units in the west of the country in response to Sweden and Finland's bids to
Putin marked the annual Border Guards Day by congratulating the members of
the Russian service.
"The tasks you are facing are particularly important now, given the
unprecedented political, economic and information pressure on our country and
the buildup of NATO military capacity right at Russia's borders," Putin said.