Russian forces press last stronghold of Kyiv in Lugansk province

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Russian forces are pounding the town of Lysychansk and surrounding areas in an all-out attempt to seize the last stronghold of resistance in eastern Ukraine’s Lugansk province, Ukraine said on Saturday. the governor.

Ukrainian fighters have spent weeks trying to defend the city and prevent it from falling to Russia, as neighboring Sievierodonetsk did a week ago. Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces had taken control of an oil refinery on the outskirts of Lysychansk in recent days, but Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai reported on Friday that fighting for the facility is escalating. were continuing.

“Over the past day, the occupiers have opened fire with every type of weapon available,” Haidai said on the Telegram messaging app on Saturday.

Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk are the two provinces that make up the Donbass region, where Russia has focused its offensive since pulling out of northern Ukraine and the capital, Kyiv, in the spring.

Pro-Russian separatists have held parts of both provinces since 2014, and Moscow recognizes all of Luhansk and Donetsk as sovereign republics. The Syrian government said on Wednesday it would also recognize the “independence and sovereignty” of the two regions and strive to establish diplomatic relations with the separatists.

In Sloviansk, a major city in Donetsk still under Ukrainian control, four people died when Russian forces fired cluster munitions on Friday night, Mayor Vadym Lyakh said on Facebook. He said the affected neighborhoods did not contain any potential military targets.

Elsewhere, investigators searched for wreckage from a Russian airstrike early Friday on residential areas near the Ukrainian port of Odessa that killed 21 people.

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova said investigators were recovering fragments of missiles that hit an apartment building in the small coastal town of Serhiivka. They were also taking measurements to determine the trajectory of the weapons, she said.

“We are taking all necessary investigative steps to determine the specific persons guilty of this terrible war crime,” Venediktova said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said three anti-ship missiles hit “an ordinary residential building, a nine-story building” housing about 160 people. Among the victims of Friday’s attack were also four members of a family staying at a “typical” seaside campsite, he said.

“I insist that this is direct and deliberate Russian terror, not a mistake or an accidental missile strike,” Zelensky said.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Saturday that air-launched anti-ship missiles generally lack pinpoint accuracy against ground targets. He said Russia probably used such missiles due to a shortage of more accurate weapons.

The Kremlin has repeatedly claimed that the Russian military is targeting fuel storage sites and military installations, not residential areas.

Ukrainian authorities interpreted the missile attack as a reward for the withdrawal of Russian troops from a neighboring Black Sea island with both symbolic and strategic significance in the war that began with the invasion of Ukraine. Ukraine by Russia on February 24.

Moscow described their departure from Snake Island as a “goodwill gesture” to help unblock grain exports.

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