FRANCESCA EBEL, by the Associated Press
KRAMATORSK, Ukraine (AP) – A day after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in the occupation of an eastern Ukrainian province essential to his wartime goals, a city has been hit by a series of bombings in the wake of the Moscow attack, its mayor said Tuesday.
Mayor Vadim Leakh said on Facebook that “huge shells” had hit Sloviansk, whose population was about 107,000 Russians more than four months before the invasion of Ukraine. The mayor, who had asked residents to evacuate a few hours earlier, advised them to take refuge in the shelter.
At least one person was killed and seven others were injured Tuesday, Layakh said. He said the city’s central market and several districts had been attacked, adding that authorities were assessing the extent of the damage.
The barrage, aimed at Sloviansk, indicates that Russian forces were stationed to advance further into the Donbas region of Ukraine, a mostly Russian-speaking industrial area where the country’s most experienced troops are concentrated.
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Sloviansk has previously fired rockets and artillery during Russia’s war in Ukraine, but bombings have begun in recent days after Moscow captured the last major city in neighboring Luhansk province, Liach said.
“It’s important to evacuate as many people as possible,” he warned, warning on Tuesday morning that 40 homes had been damaged by Monday’s shelling.
The Ukrainian military withdrew its troops from the city of Lysichansk on Sunday to protect them from the siege. Russia’s defense minister and Putin say the subsequent capture of the city has brought Moscow under the control of all of Luhansk, which is made up of Donbass between the two provinces.
The Ukrainian president’s office says Ukraine’s military is still protecting a small part of Luhansk and trying to buy time to establish a safe haven nearby.
Now the question is whether Russia can muster enough power to complete the occupation of Donbass by occupying the province of Donetsk. Putin acknowledged on Monday that Russian troops who had fought in Luhansk needed to “take some rest and increase their combat capabilities.”
On Tuesday, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the war in Ukraine would continue until all of Putin’s goals were met. However, Shoigu said that the “top priority” for Moscow at the moment is to “save the lives and health” of troops, as well as “eliminate the threat to the safety of civilians”.
When Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, his stated goal was to protect the people of Donbass against the alleged aggression in Kiev and to “demilitarize” and “exclude” Ukraine.
Pro-Russian separatists have fought Ukrainian forces and controlled most of Donbass for eight years. Prior to the attack this year, Putin recognized the independence of two self-proclaimed separatist republics in the region. He tried to portray the tactics of the Ukrainian forces and government as similar to those of Nazi Germany, for which no evidence was found.
The general staff of the Ukrainian military said Russian forces had shelled several Donetsk towns and villages in the vicinity of Sloviansk the previous day but were withdrawn as they tried to advance on a town about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of the city. South of the city, Russian forces were trying to push two more towns and shells near Kramatorsk.
Meanwhile, Moscow-based officials in Ukraine’s southern Kherson region on Tuesday announced the formation of a new regional government, led by a former Russian official.
Sergei Yelisiev, the head of Kherson’s new Moscow-backed government, was a former deputy prime minister in western Russia’s Kaliningrad and worked for Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, according to media reports.
It was not immediately clear what the “military-civilian administration” would be like before the Kremlin was installed. The head of administration, Vladimir Saldo, said in a telegram statement that the new government was “not a temporary, not a military, not an interim administration of any kind, but a proper governing body.”
“Not only the residents of Kherson, but also the Russian officials are part of this government. “This side is towards Russia.”
Kherson’s Russia-founded administration had previously spoken of plans to make the region part of Russia, either through a referendum or otherwise.
No immediate comment was received from Ukrainian officials.
– 30 NATO allies have signed protocols on joining Sweden and Finland, sending membership bids to the alliance’s capital for legal approval. The move adds to Russia’s strategic isolation. Alliance Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg welcomed the signing as “a truly historic moment for Finland, Sweden and NATO.”
– The war in Ukraine has taken millions of dollars away from other crisis-stricken countries. Somalia, largely suffering from war-driven food shortages, could be the most vulnerable. Its aid funding is less than half of last year’s level when irresistibly Western donors sent more than $ 1.7 billion to Europe to respond to the war. Yemen, Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Congo and the Palestinian territories are similarly affected.
– Spain has increased military spending in an effort to live up to its commitment to NATO to dedicate 2% of its gross domestic product to defense. Spain’s cabinet has approved a one-time euro spending of about 1 billion euros ($ 1 billion) that the government said would be needed to pay for unforeseen expenses from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Spain has sent military and humanitarian aid to Ukraine and deployed more troops and aircraft to NATO missions in Eastern Europe.
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