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Russia proclaims full control of Lugansk region

Zelensky promises to regain control of Lugansk with US-supplied long-range weapons
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AP/OLEKSANDR RATUSHNIAK  -   Ukrainian servicemen walk past the fragments of a downed plane in Kiev, Ukraine, Friday, Feb. 25, 2022

The Russian Defence Ministry has already informed Russian President Vladimir Putin of the fall of the city of Lisichansk and thus continues to make further progress in controlling the Donbas region, one of the main objectives of Putin's campaign to "denazify" the region.

Hours after the Russians seized the city, the Ukrainian army general staff reported that 'after heavy fighting for Lisichansk, the Ukrainian defence forces were forced to withdraw from their occupied positions and lines'.  After being informed about the new situation, Ukrainian President Volodomir Zelensky promised to retake the territory soon.  

For the Ukrainians, the capture of the city of Lisichansk has been a heavy blow. It was the last major bastion of resistance in the Lugansk region and with its fall the Ukrainians have lost control over the region. As Ukrainian defence spokesman Yuri Sak said, "for Ukrainians, the value of human life is a top priority, so sometimes we may withdraw from certain areas in order to retake them in the future".

Zelensky said in a video that Ukraine "will strike back with long-range weapons, with US-supplied HIMARS rocket launchers (...) we will rebuild the walls, we will take back the territory. People must be protected above all else," he warned.  

Lisichansk has been the main target of the Russian army in recent weeks. The city has been the scene of continuous sieges by Russian and pro-Russian forces. Finally, after managing to take the city and having captured the neighbouring town of Severdonetsk, the Russian army is said to have managed to "liberate" Lugansk. To this new situation the Kremlin added that it would hand over the province to the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic, whose independence Russia recognised before launching its invasion of Ukraine. In addition to Lisichansk, Russian troops took control of the villages of Verkhno Kamianka, Zolotarivka and Bilhorivka near the province of Donetsk, which translates into full control of the Lugansk oblast by Russian and pro-Russian forces.

Following the news of the fall of Lisichansk, an alleged Ukrainian attack reportedly left four dead in the Russian town of Belgorod, near the Ukrainian border. In addition to the dead, including a child, 11 buildings and 39 private homes were reportedly badly damaged.

Amid growing speculation about Belarus's possible involvement in the conflict, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed that his army had intercepted missiles allegedly launched from Ukraine. According to the president a few days ago, "they tried to attack military targets in Belarus from Ukraine. Thank God, our Pantsir anti-aircraft systems intercepted all the missiles fired by Ukrainian forces'

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REUTERS/THOMAS PETER  -  Ukrainian soldiers stand next to a crater left by shelling on an apartment building as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues in Kiev, Ukraine, 20 March 2022

In addition to these attacks, Zelensky reported that Russia had "brutally" attacked the eastern Ukrainian cities of Kharkiv, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk with rockets. In the Ukrainian city of Sloviansk, the new Russian offensives are said to have killed six people and wounded 20. The Russian Defence Ministry added that military infrastructure was also reportedly hit in Kharkiv, the second largest city in north-western Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces were reportedly building new fortifications after the overnight shelling.

According to Reuters, at least 4,000 people have been killed and 13,000 wounded since Russia began its invasion in February. Similarly, an estimated 2.3,000 buildings are said to have been destroyed in the bombardment, a situation that has displaced more than 5.26 million Ukrainians as refugees.

Recent developments in Ukraine show that a military victory for Zelensky is becoming increasingly difficult. The fall of Lisichansk, as a result of heavy Russian artillery fire, brings Putin's troops ever closer to controlling the Donbas. It is here that Russia continues to mobilise its forces in the face of an increasingly tired and exhausted Ukraine.

The question now is whether Russia will be content with the Ukrainian east or whether it will continue to push forward, governed by Putin's imperialist desires. What happens in the future can only be known to him.