Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged on Sunday that Kyiv forces had withdrawn from the strategic city in the eastern region of Donbass after a brutal Russian assault. But he vowed to regain control of the region using long-range Western weapons.
Moscow said taking Lysychansk meant it had “liberated” the Luhansk region, less than a week after taking neighboring Sievierdonetsk.
Lysychansk was the last Ukrainian stronghold in Luhansk, a key target for Russia. Its capture will provide Moscow’s troops with a firmer base from which to press their advance into Donbass – the former industrial region of mines and factories that Vladimir Putin is determined to capture.
The battlefield now focuses on the neighboring region of Donetsk, where Kyiv still controls swathes of territory.
Ukraine ‘won’t give up anything’, says Zelenskyy
In his late-night address on Sunday evening, Zelenskyy acknowledged the withdrawal, but said emphatically that Ukraine would “never give up anything.”
“We will come back, thanks to our tactics, thanks to the increased supply of modern weapons,” he said.
Ukraine’s president said Russia was concentrating its firepower on the Donbass front, but Ukraine would retaliate with long-range weapons such as US-supplied HIMARS rocket launchers.
“The fact that we protect the lives of our soldiers, of our people, plays an equally important role. We will rebuild the walls, we will reclaim the land, and the people must be protected above all else,” he said.
Zelenskyy insisted Kyiv forces were “advancing” elsewhere, in areas around Kharkiv to the northeast and Kherson to the south. “The day will come when the same will be said of Donbass,” he added.
Since abandoning its assault on the capital Kyiv, Russia has focused its military operation on the industrial heartland of Donbass which includes the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where Moscow-backed separatist proxies have been fighting Ukraine since 2014.
Moscow said it would cede Luhansk to the self-proclaimed Russian-backed Luhansk People’s Republic, whose independence it had recognized on the eve of the war.
But Zelenskyy despised Moscow’s achievements. “What’s the point of all this? For the sake of crazy propagandists to be able to show a Russian or Soviet flag on the ruins somewhere in their broadcasts. There’s just no other answer,” he said. in his Sunday evening speech.
No respite in the Russian assault on the East
The Russian army continued to pound eastern Ukraine on Monday, advancing its plan to conquer the entire Donbass region after taking Lysychansk.
In Sloviansk, a city of about 100,000 inhabitants before the war, Russian strikes killed six people on Sunday, including a nine-year-old girl.
The Ukrainian authorities are now calling on residents to leave the region, while the front line is only a few kilometers away.
Ukrainian forces appear to be trying to defend a line between Siversk – about 20 kilometers west of Lysychansk – and Bakhmut, to protect Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.
“The enemy has intensified its shelling of our positions in the direction of Bakhmut,” the Ukrainian army general staff confirmed in its first update on Monday morning.
Monday sees the start of the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Lugano which, according to President Zelenskyy, can “become an essential step for the reconstruction of Ukraine”.
The conference will be jointly organized by Switzerland and Ukraine on July 4 and 5 and is presented as an opportunity for Ukraine to work with international partners on a recovery and reconstruction plan for the country.