By MARIA GRAZIA MURRU Associated Press
KYIV, Ukarine (AP) — Russian forces are attacking the city of Lysychansk and its surroundings in an all-out attempt to seize the last resistance stronghold in eastern Ukraine’s Lugansk province, the governor said Saturday.
Ukrainian fighters have spent weeks trying to defend the city from falling to Russia, as neighboring Sievierodonetsk did a week ago. The Russian Defense Ministry said its forces took control of an oil refinery on the outskirts of Lysychansk in recent days, but Lugansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said on Friday that fighting over the facility was continuing.
“During the last day, the occupants opened fire with all kinds of weapons available,” Haidai said on the Telegram messaging app on Saturday.
Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk are the two provinces that make up the Donbas region, where Russia has focused its offensive since withdrawing from northern Ukraine and the capital Kyiv in the spring.
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Pro-Russian separatists have occupied parts of both provinces since 2014, and Moscow recognizes all of Luhansk and Donetsk as sovereign republics. Syria’s government said on Wednesday it would also recognize the “independence and sovereignty” of the two areas and work to establish diplomatic relations with the separatists.
In Slovyansk, a major Donetsk city that is still under Ukrainian control, four people were killed when Russian forces fired cluster munitions on Friday night, Mayor Vadym Lyakh said on Facebook. He said the neighborhoods that were targeted did not contain any potential military targets.
Elsewhere, investigators sifted through the remains of a Russian airstrike early Friday on residential areas near the Ukrainian port of Odessa that killed 21 people.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said three anti-ship missiles hit an apartment building in the small town of Serhiivka. Victims of Friday’s attack also included four family members at a coastal camp that was also hit, he said.
“I emphasize: this is direct and deliberate Russian terror, and not a mistake or an accidental missile attack,” Zelenskyy said.
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 revenge for the withdrawal of Russian troops from a nearby Black Sea island with both symbolic and strategic significance in the war that began with the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24.
Moscow described its departure from Snake Island as a “goodwill gesture” to help unlock grain exports.
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