Regional authorities have urged civilians to evacuate the city of Lysychansk, as Russia continues its devastating assault in eastern Ukraine.
“Dear residents of Lysychansk city territorial community, including relatives! Due to the real threat to life and health, we call on you to evacuate urgently,” Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region, wrote on Telegram on the evening of Monday, 27 June.
“The situation in the city is extremely difficult! Save yourselves and your relatives. Take care of your children!” he added.
Just one day prior, on June 26, Haidai warned citizens of Lysychansk of the imminent threat to the embattled city, proposing door-to-door evacuations and stressing to residents that “everyone who is still hesitant should understand that the next time will be even more difficult. Don’t miss these chances.”
Haidai warned that Russian troops were “storming” the city, with eight civilians killed by shelling and a further 21 injured on Monday, June 27.
The region has now become Russia’s military focus, four months after it launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24 and unsuccessfully attempted to capture Kyiv and the second city of Kharkiv.
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.
An estimated 100,000 civilians lived in the city of Lysychansk prior to Feb. 24. The current number of citizens is unknown, but those remaining in the city have witnessed intense artillery barrages that have devastated urban and rural areas.
The announcement to civilians to evacuate Lysychansk follows Ukraine’s military retreat from the nearby eastern city of Severodonetsk on June 24, with Haidai confirming that the city was experiencing street-by-street battles.
He posted on Telegram: “Remaining in positions smashed to pieces over many months just for the sake of staying there does not make sense.”
Ukrainian soldiers “have already received the order to move to new positions,” he added.
Severodonetsk is a strategic city and its capture is viewed by Moscow as a vital military objective in the battle for the Luhansk region and the entire Donbas. Only the region’s city of Lysychansk remains under Ukrainian control.
Ukrainian military officials had hoped that long-range artillery, particularly that supplied by the U.S., would ensure successful defense efforts against Russian invaders in the embattled city. Haidai initially stated on June 9: “As soon as we have long-range artillery to be able to conduct duels with Russian artillery, our special forces can clean up the city in two to three days.”
However, deliveries of military supplies from America have been slow, frustrating both regional officials and the Ukrainian government.
The latest aid package promised by U.S. President Joe Biden in a June 15 statement includes two vehicle-mounted Harpoon coastal defense systems. These could prove effective in tackling around 20 Russian warships blockading Ukraine’s ports in the Black Sea, whilst enabling grain – one of the country’s biggest commodities – to once again be supplied to the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
The package also includes weapons and ammunition destined for the Donbas.
But it now appears that the weapons could arrive too late. Despite urgent demand from Ukrainian soldiers for more weapons and ammunition in the industrial Donbas region, the delivery of the latest package won’t reach Ukraine for several months, U.S. officials told reporters at the Pentagon on Wednesday, June 15.
The hold-up is due in part to the process the U.S. must take to procure and deliver the weapons, but also to the time it takes to train Ukrainian troops to operate the systems.
Ukraine has so far only received 10 percent of military assistance requested from its Western allies, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar confirmed in a televised address on Tuesday, June 14.
She also stressed that whilst Ukraine fires between 5,000 and 6,000 artillery rounds an average per day, Russia continues to fire 10 times as many.
“No matter how much effort Ukraine makes and no matter how professional our army, we will not be able to win this war without the help of Western partners,” Malyar said.
Ukrainian leaders have already vented their frustration over the bureaucracy and logistical hurdles hampering much-needed speedy delivery, particularly with respect to areas under heavy attack from Russian forces, such as the Donbas region.
Last week, President Zelensky urged western governments to do more to hasten the process, saying in a nightly address that “It is vital to hold on there, in Donbas. The more losses the enemy suffers there, the less power they will have to continue the aggression.”
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