Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy vowed to win back territory with the help of advanced weapons after his forces withdrew from Lysychansk, the last remaining Ukrainian-held territory in the eastern Luhansk province.
In his nightly address Sunday, Zelenskyy said Russia was focusing its firepower on the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine, and that Ukrainian forces would respond with long-range weapons supplied by Western allies such as the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System from the United States.
“The fact that we protect the lives of our soldiers, our people, plays an equally important role. We will rebuild the walls, we will win back the land, and people must be protected above all else,” Zelenskyy said.
Ukraine’s military said Sunday it decided to withdraw its remaining fighters from Lysychansk because continuing defense efforts in the face of superior Russian troop numbers and equipment “would lead to fatal consequences.”
Ukrainian officials have repeatedly urged allies to help bolster its arsenal with more advanced weapons to help them match up against Russia’s military.
Since failing early in its four-month invasion of Ukraine to topple Zelenskyy or capture the capital, Kyiv, Russia has focused on taking control of the Donbas region, which includes Luhansk and Donetsk provinces. Ukraine retains control of several cities in Donetsk.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai told Reuters there was nothing critical in losing Lysychansk, and that Ukraine needed to win the overall war, not the fight for the city.
“It hurts a lot, but it’s not losing the war,” he said Monday.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed President Vladimir Putin that the Luhansk People’s Republic — as the pro-Russian separatist government that claims control over Luhansk calls itself — has been “liberated,” Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Telegram. “As Army General Sergei Shoigu reported, as a result of successful combat operations, the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, together with units of the People’s Militia of the Lugansk People’s Republic, have established full control over the city of Lisichansk and a number of nearby settlements, the largest of which are Belogorovka, Novodruzhesk, Maloryazantsevo and Belaya Gora,” the ministry said in its post, using the Russian spelling of Lysychansk.
Meanwhile, Russian officials said blasts Sunday in a Russian city bordering Ukraine killed at least three people.
Dozens of residential buildings were damaged in the explosions in Belgorod. Russian lawmaker Andrei Klishas has called for a military response.
“The death of civilians and the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Belgorod,” Klishas posted on Telegram, “are a direct act of aggression on the part of Ukraine and require the most severe — including a military — response.”
Ukrainian officials did not immediately comment on the Russian claims about the Belgorod explosions.
Switzerland is hosting a conference Monday and Tuesday focusing on what it will take to rebuild Ukraine.
The meeting in Lugano brings together leaders from dozens of countries as well as international organizations and the private sector.
Ukrainian Ambassador to Switzerland Artem Rybchenko said the conference would help produce a roadmap for his country’s recovery.
Zelenskyy is expected to address the gathering by video, while Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal made a rare trip outside of Ukraine to attend in person.
Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.