Russia concentrates fire on 2 villages in eastern Ukraine

Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) — The Russian military expanded its territory in eastern Ukraine on Thursday, seizing two villages and fighting for control of a key road that could cut supply lines and surround some Ukrainian front-line troops, British and Ukrainian military officials said.

Ukrainian troops have withdrawn from some areas near the city of Lysychansk, the latest major battleground in Russian President Vladimir Putin’s war against Ukraine, to avoid being surrounded by Russia as reinforcements are sent and firepower is concentrated in the area, the UK Ministry of Defence said. possibility.

The Ukrainian General Staff said Russian troops had taken control of the villages of Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka and were trying to seize Syrotyne outside Sievierodonetsk, the administrative center of the Luhansk region.

“The enemy is burning everything to surround the Ukrainian army,” Luhansk Governor Shershi Heyday told The Associated Press.

“The Russians are advancing, not trying to save ammunition or troops, and they’re not running out of any,” Haidai said. “They have an advantage in heavy artillery and troops.”

“Part of the Luhansk region remains under Ukrainian control, ignoring the Russians and causing their anger and desire to burn it,” he added.

For weeks, Russian troops have been hitting Siver Donetsk with artillery and airstrikes, and have engaged in house-to-house battles with Ukrainian troops. Ukrainian troops remain in hiding at the Azot chemical plant on the edge of the city, where some 500 civilians are also taking shelter.

Ukrainian soldiers are using the plant’s vast underground structure, Khadai said, but noted that “the shelling has intensified, and even the concrete bunkers can’t withstand the bombing.” The Russians are using all their weapons – heavy artillery, tanks, planes,” he added. Say.

The Russians are also attacking Lysichansk on the steep banks of the Siver Donetsk.

Lysichansk also faces relentless Russian shelling that has killed at least one civilian and wounded three others in the past 24 hours, Khadai said. The governor noted that the Russians had concentrated more than 100 multiple rocket launchers to “bomb the entire neighborhood.”

“The Russian army is ‘liberating’ lives and workplaces in Donetsk,” he said sarcastically, referring to Russia’s stated goal of “liberating” the Donbass.

The British Ministry of Defence said in its intelligence assessment on Thursday that Russian forces may have advanced more than 5 kilometers (3 miles) into the southern approach to Lysychansk since Sunday.

“Some Ukrainian troops have withdrawn, possibly to avoid being surrounded,” the statement said. “Russia’s improved performance in this area may be the result of recent troop strengthening and fire concentration.”

The Ukrainian military said the Russians were also crossing the hill overlooking the highway linking Lysychansk and Bakhmut in the southwest in an attempt to cut supply lines to Ukrainian troops.

The Bakhmut-Lusychansk highway was not used due to heavy Russian shelling, and Ukrainian troops were getting supplies via an alternate route, Haidai said.

Following an unsuccessful attempt to seize the Ukrainian capital early in the February 24 invasion, Russian forces have shifted their focus to Donbass, the industrial hub of eastern Ukraine, where Ukrainian forces have been fighting Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.

Russian forces currently control about 95 percent of the Luhansk region and about half of the neighboring Donetsk region.

Asked about the prospect of a political settlement, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Thursday that “it is possible after Ukraine meets all Russian demands”, adding, “Ukraine is very aware of What are those requirements.”

The Kremlin had previously demanded that Ukraine accept Russia’s sovereignty over the Crimea peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014, and recognize the independence of the divided eastern region. Moscow also noted that Ukraine should recognize the situation on the ground, apparently referring to other Russian land gains in southern Ukraine, where it occupies parts of the Kherson and Zaporozhye regions.

Other developments:

— An online fundraiser to help Ukraine buy three offensive drones raised $10.4 million in just 24 hours, a Ukrainian politician and TV personality said.

Serhiy Prytula credited the “amazing” support of Ukrainians after his charitable foundation launched a day earlier a call for $15 million to buy a Bayraktar drone like the one the Ukrainian army has used to defend against Russian invaders.

He tweeted: “$4.6 million left. The People’s Bayraktar project is already a national crowdfunding project. Let’s make it international!”

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Yuras Karmanau contributed to this report in Lviv.

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