Russian forces have instigated a fierce attack on the front-line city of Sloviansk, killing six and wounding 20, with civilians today, Monday 4 July, warned to prepare for an imminent full-scale invasion.
With an estimated population of 106,972, Sloviansk was one of the focal points in the early stages of the 2014 conflict in Ukraine, and was the first city to be seized by Moscow-backed military troops. It was retaken by Ukrainian forces in July 2014.
Six people were killed in Sloviansk on Sunday, 3 July, after the eastern city came under heavy shelling from Russian multiple rocket launchers (MLRS).
The attack was the worst shelling to hit the front line city recently and caused nearly 15 fires, Mayor Vadym Lyakh wrote on Telegram. The city is in the industrial Donetsk region that Russia is trying to capture..
Donetsk regional administration spokeswoman Tetiana Ihnatchenko told Ukraine’s public news network that 15 people had been wounded in yesterday’s attack, and today said that civilians had been advised to expect an “imminent full-scale invasion”.
Ihnatchenko also said the neighbouring city of Kramatorsk had been hit by MLRS fire, destroying a hotel.
The escalation follows Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense confirming this morning that the strategically-important city of Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine has fallen, and is now officially under the control of Russian forces. In a Facebook post, the General Staff of the Armed Forces wrote:
“In the conditions of the multiple superiority of Russian occupation forces in artillery, aviation, MLRS, ammunition and personnel, the continuation of the defense of the city would lead to fatal consequences. In order to preserve the lives of Ukrainian defenders, a decision was made to withdraw.”
According to the General Staff, Ukrainian defenders continue to fight, but “iron will and patriotism are not enough for success: material and technical resources are needed”, adding that “the defenders of Luhansk Region and other regions of Ukraine heroically perform their civil and military duties. We will be back and we will definitely win.”
The east of Ukraine has become Russia’s main military focus, four months after it launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 and unsuccessfully attempted to capture Kyiv and Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city.
Since withdrawing from territories around the capital in early April, the Russian military, along with Russian-funded separatist allies in the east, have waged a brutal campaign to drive Ukrainian forces out of Luhansk and the neighboring Donetsk region. Together, these regions constitute the strategically and economically important Donbas industrial belt.
In his daily address yesterday evening, President Zelensky vowed that Ukrainian troops would recapture all territories captured by the Russian invaders, saying that: “The main task of the state is to do everything for our heroes, our warriors from all branches of the army to have everything necessary for the defense of the state, to have the most modern weapons. It is not easy, it takes a lot of effort, it requires many negotiations, but we will ensure such a supply.
“Today, the Russian army once again brutally shelled Slovyansk, Kramatorsk, Kharkiv with MLRS and “Smerch” systems. In Slovyansk alone, six people are on the list of dead, and about twenty are wounded. A girl died, her name was Yeva. She would have turned 10 in August this year…”
“Ukraine does not give anything up” he added. “And when someone over there in Moscow reports something about the 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: Zmiinyi is a good example of this. There will be a day when we will say the same about Donbas.”
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