Ukraine pleads for air defence as Russia turns sights on Lysychansk

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said on Monday Russian forces were using artillery to try to cut off Lysychansk from the south. Russian war planes had also struck near Lysychansk, the general staff said in its daily update.

Tass news agency on Sunday quoted an from Moscow-backed separatists as saying Russian forces had entered Lysychansk from five directions and were isolating Ukrainian defenders.

Reuters could not confirm the report and the general staff update made no mention of separatists entering the city.

“Lysychansk, it was a horror, the last week,” said Elena, an elderly woman from the city who was among dozens of evacuees who arrived in the Ukrainian-held town of Pokrovsk by bus from frontline areas. “I already told my husband if I die, please bury me behind the house,” she said.

In a big setback for Ukraine, Russian forces won full control of Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk’s twin city on the eastern bank of the Siversky Donets River, over the weekend when Ukrainian troops pulled out after weeks of intense bombardments and street fighting.

Luhansk and neighbouring Donetsk province make up Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region – the country’s industrial heartland.

The Donbas became a prime target for the Kremlin after Russian troops failed to take the capital Kyiv in the early stages of the war.

Russian forces also control a swathe of territory in the south, including the port city of Mariupol, which fell after weeks of siege warfare which left it in ruins.

Russian missiles also struck Kyiv for the first time in weeks on Sunday.

Missiles hit a bridge in the central city of Cherkasy linking western Ukraine and the eastern battlefields on Sunday, Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said.

Odesa regional administration spokesperson Serhiy Bratchuk said a missile strike in the Odesa region, in southern Ukraine, had destroyed residential buildings and caused a fire. Six people were injured including a child, he added.

Reuters was not able to immediately confirm details of the report. Russia denies civilians.

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb 24 in what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation” to rid the country of far-right nationalists and ensure Russian security.

Kyiv and the West dismiss that as a baseless pretext for a war of aggression that has killed thousands, sent millions fleeing Ukraine, destroyed cities and driven up food and energy prices.

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