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A major city and the last remaining stronghold in eastern Ukraine could soon fall to Russian forces, a senior adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has said.
Lysychansk, in the eastern province of Luhansk, could fall as Russian forces continue their assault on the city and seek to complete the siege of its sister city Sievierodonetsk, according to Zelenskyy adviser Oleksiy Arestovych.
The two Ukrainian cities are separated by the Siverskyi Donets River, with Sievierodonetsk to the north and Lysychansk to the south. Last month, President Zelenskyy said the two cities stood in the way of Russia’s full control of the region.
While Russian forces have been attacking both cities in recent weeks, their occupation of Sievierodonetsk gives them a new strategic advantage as these forces crossed the river and entered Lysychansk from the north, the adviser said.
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“This really is a threat. [and] I am not ruling out any of a number of outcomes here,” Arestovych said, according to Reuters. “Things will become much clearer in a day or two.”
The fall of the final resistance of the Ukrainian troops in the region will change the landscape of the war, the adviser warned.
“If Lysychansk is taken, strategically it becomes more difficult for the Russians to continue their offensive. The front lines will be flatter and there will be a frontal attack rather than from the flanks,” Arestovych predicted, according to the report.
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On the contrary, weapons and ammunition from the West could result in a successful defense of the city by Ukraine, he said.
“The more Western weapons reach the front, the more the image changes in favor of Ukraine,” the adviser added.
Russian separatist forces have already claimed control of the city, although they have not “liberated” it, while Ukrainian officials have disputed this claim.
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Last month, President Zelenskyy confirmed that Russian forces have occupied 20 percent of Ukraine, including most of the Donbas region, which includes Lugansk in the east and Donetsk in the south.
“The Russian army has already destroyed almost the entire Donbas. Once, one of the most powerful industrial centers in Europe is simply devastated,” Zelenskyy said on June 2. “The occupiers are destroying it city after city.”
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“We still don’t even know exactly how many of our people were killed by the occupiers. At least tens of thousands, tens of thousands in just under 100 days,” he added.