MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin orders the military to fight on after Moscow’s troops won control of the last city held by Ukrainian forces in the eastern Lugansk area on their rapid advance through the Donbas region.
Russia claimed full control of Lugansk, one of two areas making up the industrial Donbas along with neighbouring Donetsk, after capturing the city of Lysychansk at the weekend.
The Ukrainian army said it withdrew from the city to minimise its losses in the face of superior Russian firepower.
Putin says Russian forces “must carry out their tasks according to previously approved plans” and says he hopes they will continue to advance “as has happened in Lugansk”.
– $750 bn needed to rebuild Ukraine: PM –
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmygal estimates it will take $750 billion to rebuild his war-torn country and says confiscated Russian assets should be sold off to help offset the cost.
Shmygal announces the figure during a donor conference in Switzerland which is discussing a “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine — a huge package of aid to help it rebuild like Europe received from the United States after World War II.
Leaders from dozens of countries, international organisations and the private sector are attending the meeting in the Swiss city of Lugano.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says the reconstruction of Ukraine is a job for “the whole democratic world”, not just Ukrainians.
Ukraine retreats from key city in major Russian gain
The Ukrainian army retreated from the strategic city of Lysychansk Sunday, as Russia claimed a major victory by seizing control of the entire eastern Lugansk region.
The Ukrainian withdrawal followed weeks of fierce fighting and marked a decisive breakthrough for Moscow’s forces more than four months after their invasion and after turning their focus away from the capital Kyiv.
Lysychansk had been the last major city in the Lugansk area of the eastern Donbas region still in Ukrainian hands and this frees up Moscow’s forces to advance on Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in neighbouring Donetsk.
President Volodymyr Zelensky had earlier denied Russian claims of Lysychansk’s fall before the Ukrainian army announced the retreat on Sunday evening.
“The continuation of the defence of the city would lead to fatal consequences” in the face of Russia’s superiority in numbers and equipment, the army said in a statement.
“In order to preserve the lives of Ukrainian defenders, a decision was made to withdraw.
“Unfortunately, steel will and patriotism are not enough for success — material and technical resources are needed.”
Russian forces seized Lysychansk’s twin city of Severodonetsk last week following weeks of intense fighting.
The latest blow to Ukrainian resistance came after Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese on Sunday pledged further military support including armoured vehicles and drones during a meeting with Zelensky in Kyiv.
In an address late Sunday, Zelensky vowed Kyiv would fight on and ensure the military had “the most modern weapons”.
“It requires many negotiations, but we will ensure such a supply. Ukraine will reach the level when the fire superiority of the occupiers will be leveled.”
– Britons, Moroccan appeal death sentences –
Two British nationals and a Moroccan man who were sentenced to death last month by Russian-backed separatists after being captured while fighting for Ukraine have appealed their convictions, a court in the breakaway Donetsk People’s Republic says.
The cases of Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner of Britain and Brahim Saadun of Morocco have caused an international outcry.
The two Britons surrendered in April in Mariupol, a port city in southern Ukraine captured by Russian troops after a weeks-long siege.
Russia accuses them of acting as mercenaries.
They argue they were serving members of the Ukrainian military and should be treated as prisoners of war.