Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said that Luhansk Region will be Moscow’s “last victory” after Russia’s capture of the city of Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine on Sunday, July 3. 

In his now traditional nightly video message, Zelensky declared on July 3, “The Armed Forces of Ukraine respond, push back and destroy…the occupiers day after day. We need to break them. It is a difficult task. It requires time and superhuman efforts. But we have no alternative.”

According to Neil Melvin of the RUSI (Royal United Services Institute) think tank in London, “This has taken 60 days to make very slow progress. I think the Russians may declare some kind of victory, but the key war battle is still yet to come.”

“Ukraine’s position was never that they could defend all of this. What they’ve been trying to do is to slow down the Russian assault and cause maximum damage, while they build up for a counteroffensive,” he told the Reuters news agency.

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The battle for Luhansk has raged along a loop of the Siversky Donets River, which winds through Luhansk and Donetsk Regions. Both sides have taken thousands in dead and wounded in the first offensive progress for Russian invaders since they were turned back from the capital Kyiv in March. The next phase of the war will now move to nearby Donetsk Region, where Ukrainian forces have taken up defensive positions.

Zelensky said plans to retake the region include long-range weapons such as the United States-supplied HIMARS rocket launchers.

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His comments follow his July 3 address, in which he acknowledged that Ukrainian territories in the east had been occupied via brutal Russian aggression, and pledged to recapture every inch of land.

“Ukraine does not give anything up,” he said. “And when someone over there in Moscow reports something about Luhansk region – let them remember their reports and promises before February 24, in the first days of this invasion, in the spring and now. Let them really evaluate what they got over this time and how much they paid for it. Because their current reports will turn into dust just as the previous ones. We are gradually moving forward – in the Kharkiv region, in the Kherson region and at sea: Zmiyny [Snake Island] is a good example of this.

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“There will be a day when we will say the same about Donbas.”

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