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Russians Press Assault on Eastern Ukrainian City | World News

Maria Grazia Muru, by the Associated Press

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) – Russian forces fired on the city of Lysichansk and surrounding areas in an all-out effort to seize the last stronghold of the resistance in the eastern Ukrainian province of Luhansk, the governor said on Saturday.

Ukrainian fighters have spent weeks defending the city and protecting it from falling into the hands of Russia, as neighbor Sivirodonetsk did a week ago. Russia’s Defense Ministry says its forces have taken control of an oil refinery on the outskirts of Lysichansk in recent days, but Luhansk Governor Serhi Haidai said Friday that the fight for the facility continues.

“Over the last days, the occupiers fired from all available weapons,” Haidai said on the Telegram messaging app on Saturday.

Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk are the two provinces that make up the Donbass region, where Russia has focused aggressively since returning from northern Ukraine and the capital Kyiv in the spring.

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Pro-Russian separatists have occupied parts of both eastern provinces since 2014, and Moscow recognizes all of Luhansk and Donetsk as sovereign republics. The Syrian government said Wednesday it would recognize the “independence and sovereignty” of the two territories and work to establish diplomatic relations with separatists.

In Sloviansk, a major Ukrainian city controlled by Donetsk, four people were killed when Russian forces fired a barrage of ammunition late Friday night, Mayor Vadim Liach said on Facebook. He said there were no potential military targets in the surrounding areas that were hit.

The leader of neighboring Belarus, a Russian ally, claimed on Saturday that Ukraine had fired missiles at military targets on Belarusian territory several days earlier but that all had been intercepted by air defense systems. President Alexander Lukashenko described it as provocative and noted that no Belarusian troops were fighting in Ukraine. There was no immediate reaction from the Ukrainian military.

Belarus was the organizer of the Russian military unit and used as a platform for Russian aggression. Last week, just hours before Lukashenko met with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian long-range bombers fired missiles at Ukraine from Belarusian airspace for the first time.

Lukashenko has so far resisted attempts to drag his army into the war. But during their meeting, Putin announced that Russia planned to supply Belarus with the Iskander-M missile system and reminded Lukashenko of how dependent his government was on Russia’s economic assistance.

On Saturday, Lukashenko claimed that two Belarusian truck drivers had been killed in Ukraine. Ukraine says the truckers were at a gas station during a Russian airstrike in March, but Lukashenko has claimed that organs were cut off from their bodies to hide evidence that they had been shot.

Elsewhere in Ukraine, investigators jumped through the rubble of a Russian airstrike early Friday in a residential area near the Ukrainian port of Odessa, killing 21 people.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor-General Irina Venediktova says investigators are recovering fragments of a missile that hit an apartment building in the small coastal town of Serhivka. They were also measuring the direction of the weapons and determining “specific individuals guilty of this heinous war crime.”

Larissa Andruchenko said she was making tea in the kitchen around 1 a.m. when the door opened in the explosion. At first she thought the propane gas tank had exploded, and called her husband to the kitchen.

“And just then the light went out and it was a nightmare. The two of us were in the kitchen, the glass was flying, everything was flying, ”he said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said three anti-ship missiles hit “a typical residential building, a nine-story building” where about 160 people live. He said the victims of Friday’s attack also included four members of a family who were staying at a campsite on the coast.

“I emphasize: this is deliberately direct Russian terrorism, and not some wrong or accidental missile attack,” Zelensky said.

The British Ministry of Defense said on Saturday that anti-ship missiles launched from the sky usually do not have accuracy in ground targets. It says Russia is using such missiles, probably because of a lack of more accurate weapons.

The Kremlin has repeatedly claimed that Russian military forces are targeting fuel storage sites and military facilities, not residential areas, although the missile recently hit an apartment building in Kiev and a shopping mall in the central city of Kremenchuk.

On Saturday, Kremenchuk Mayor Vitaly Maletsky said the death toll from the mall attack had risen to 21 and one was still missing.

Ukrainian authorities have interpreted the missile attack in Odessa as a retaliation for the withdrawal of Russian troops from a nearby Black Sea island, which carries both symbolic and strategic significance in the war that began with Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Moscow has described their departure from Snake Island as a “gesture of goodwill” to help lift grain exports.

Follow the Russia-Ukraine War AP coverage at

Copyright 2022 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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