Ukraine war: Putin presses on after Lysychansk capture

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Smoke rises over the remains of a building destroyed by a military strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine June 17, 2022.Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Russian shelling has laid waste to large areas of the city

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his defence minister to continue the offensive in Ukraine after Russia captured the city of Lysychansk.

Mr Putin was shown on Russian TV calling on forces on other fronts to pursue their aims according to "previously approved plans".

The capture means that all of Luhansk region is now in Russian hands.

Earlier the region's Ukrainian governor said the city was abandoned so Russians would not destroy it from a distance.

Soldiers have now moved to new fortified positions, Serhiy Haidai told the BBC.

Losing the city and ceding control of Luhansk to Russia was painful, he said, but added: "This is just one battle we have lost, but not the war."

He pleaded for more weapons from the West to offset the Russian advantage.

President Volodymyr Zelensky has pledged that Ukrainian forces will return to retake Lysychansk "thanks to the increase in the supply of modern weapons".

Russia has now stepped up its bombardment of cities in the neighbouring Donetsk region, with the areas around Sloviansk and the road between Lysychansk and Bakhmut in particular being targeted, according to Ukrainian forces.

Together the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk form the industrial Donbas area.

Mr Putin was seen telling Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu that troops who took part in the campaign to capture Luhansk should "rest and develop their combat capabilities".

"Other military units, including the East group and the West group, must carry out their tasks according to previously approved plans," he said, expressing the hope that on those fronts they would have similar success to that in Luhansk region.

Just before he launched the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, Mr Putin recognised all of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent states. Russian proxy forces began an insurgency there in 2014 - the year Russia also annexed the Crimean peninsula.

Just over a week ago, Russian troops captured Severodonetsk - which Russian bombardment has reduced to ruins.

Three Ukrainian soldiers who've served in the Donbas have described the fighting there as brutal.

"Russians like to destroy a city, a village, totally. Never mind who's there - Ukrainian civilians or military," Mark, a volunteer fighter just back from the front line in the Luhansk region, told me.

Another soldier, Nikolai, told me he'd be lying if he didn't admit it was "terrifying".

All three soldiers agree with Ukraine pulling back when its troops are outgunned: "It's very hard to hold ground. It's a lot of deaths. There's nothing left there now anyway. No civilians. No city. They bombed it all."

They can't give details of casualties, but talked of "so many". "People we studied with, shared food with, volunteers like us. Many are gone."

And yet, they insisted they would go back to the Donbas within days to fight on.

Speaking about the decision to leave Lysychansk, Mr Haidai said: "Our military could have held the city for a long time, but Russia currently has a huge advantage in artillery and ammunition. They would have simply destroyed the city from a distance, so there was no point in staying."

Mr Haidai said troops had now moved to positions in neighbouring Donetsk, but that 10,000 people remained in the city.

In other developments:

  • Ukraine needs $750bn for a recovery plan and Russian oligarchs should contribute to the cost, Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal has told a reconstruction conference in Switzerland
  • British Foreign Minister Liz Truss has called for a new Marshall Plan to rebuild Ukraine, in reference to the huge US aid programme for Europe after World War Two
  • Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, told the conference that Russia wants to undermine Ukraine's existence, but it can emerge from the war as a stronger and more modern country
  • Ukraine's military said it had raised the Ukrainian flag again on Snake Island, after Russian troops left the tiny but strategic outcrop in the Black Sea last week

War in Ukraine: More coverage