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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Ukraine says it controls two villages in Luhansk, denying Russia total control of the region

Smoke rises from bombed sites in Lysychansk, Ukraine, June 19, 2022.

By Cora Engelbrecht

Even as Russia’s defense minister directed his country’s troops to step up attacks “in all operational sectors” of the war, Ukrainian forces continued to deny Moscow the chance to claim total control over the Luhansk region as its forces held their positions in two villages. The two small farming villages are the final holdouts of Ukrainian forces in the region.

Serhiy Haidai, head of the Luhansk region’s military administration, said Sunday that Ukrainian forces were working to withstand Russian advances in the besieged settlements of Bilohorivka and Verkhnokamianka.

The villages sit about 10 miles west of the strategic city of Lysychansk, which on July 3 became the last major city in Luhansk to fall to the Russians’ control.

“One of the villages has already been captured by the occupier several times, but each time our troops pushed the enemy back to their previous positions,” Haidai said in a post on Telegram.

“But the enemy does not stop — he returns and suffers more losses,” he said, adding that Russian troops had targeted the settlements Saturday with a combination of airstrikes, rockets and artillery, but “received decent resistance, retreated and then lost their personnel.”

The Ukrainians and Russians have each suffered heavy losses in the battle for eastern Ukraine. The Russian advance has been characterized by punishing artillery campaigns that have left much of the towns Russia has conquered in ruins. Still, the seizure of Lysychansk signified Moscow’s near-total control of the Luhansk region.

The capture has also given Russian forces a base to regroup and launch offensives farther southwest, into cities such as Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Bakhmut.

Haidai reported Saturday that Ukrainian troops had used “heavy fire” to repel Russian troops in a ground assault to capture a strip of highway between the cities of Lysychansk and Bakhmut, which has been bitterly contested for months.

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