KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Russian forces are pounding the city of Lysychansk and its surroundings in an all-out attempt to seize the last stronghold of resistance in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province, the governor said Saturday.
Ukrainian fighters have spent weeks trying to defend the city and to keep it from falling to Russia, as neighbouring Sievierodonetsk did a week ago. The Russian Defence Ministry said its forces took control of an oil refinery on Lysychansk’s edge in recent days, but Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai reported Friday that fighting for the facility continued.
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“Over the last day, the occupiers opened fire from all available kinds of weapons,” Haidai said Saturday on the Telegram messaging app.
Luhansk and neighbouring Donetsk are the two provinces that make up the Donbas region, where Russia has focused its offensive since pulling back from northern Ukraine and the capital, Kyiv, in the spring.
Pro-Russia separatists have held portions of both provinces since 2014, and Moscow recognizes all of Luhansk and Donetsk as sovereign republics. Syria’s government said Wednesday that 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 still under Ukrainian control, four people died when Russian forces fired cluster munitions late Friday, Mayor Vadym Lyakh said on Facebook. He said the neighbourhoods that were hit did not contain any potential military targets.
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Elsewhere, investigators combed through the wreckage from a Russian airstrike early Friday on residential areas near the Ukrainian port of Odesa that killed 21 people.
Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Iryna Venediktova said the investigators were recovering fragments from missiles that struck an apartment building in the small coastal town of Serhiivka. They also were taking measurements to determine the trajectory of the weapons, she said.
“We are taking all the necessary investigative measures to determine the specific people guilty of this terrible war crime,” Venediktova said.