The governor of Donetsk, the last remaining eastern province of Ukraine partially under Kyiv’s control, has urged more than 350,000 residents to flee the area due to escalation in Russian offensives in the region.
Russian forces struck targets across Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region a day after President Vladimir Putin declared victory in the neighboring province of Luhansk. This comes after months of grueling attritional warfare in which both sides lost many men.
Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told reporters on Tuesday evening that getting people out of Donetsk is necessary to save lives and enable the Ukrainian army to better defend towns from the Russian advance.
“The destiny of the whole country will be decided by the Donetsk region,” Kyrylenko told reporters. “Once there are less people, we will be able to concentrate more on our enemy and perform our main tasks.”
On Sunday, after Russian forces took control of Lysychansk, the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in Luhansk, Ukrainian officials said they now expect Moscow to focus its efforts especially on the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk in Donetsk.
Kyrylenko said this is because the province’s administrative center, Kramatorsk, which houses critical infrastructure such as water filtration plants, would, along with the city of Sloviansk, located sixteen kilometers to the north, now be the main targets.
He described recent shelling as “very chaotic” without “a specific target but only to destroy civilian infrastructure and residential areas.”
Russian Forces target Sloviansk region of Ukraine
On Tuesday, July 5th, Russian forces struck a market and a residential area in Sloviansk, killing at least two people and injuring seven, local officials said.
There were reports of yellow smoke billowing from an auto supplies shop at the scene, and flames engulfing rows of market stalls were seen as firefighters worked on extinguishing the blaze.
Mayor Vadim Lyakh said, “Sloviansk has previously taken rocket and artillery fire, but bombardments have picked up in recent days after Moscow took the last major city in [neighboring] Luhansk province”.
Sergei Shoigu, Russia’s defense minister said, “The city’s capture put Moscow in control of all of Luhansk, one of two provinces that make up the Donbas,” but the regional governor said Tuesday that fighting was continuing on Lysychansk’s outskirts.
The Ukrainian military withdrew its troops Sunday from the city of Lysychansk in order to keep them from being surrounded.
Anticipated effects of the Russia – Ukraine War
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address that: “The Russian army does not take any breaks. It has one task, to take people’s lives, to intimidate people, so that even a few days without an air alarm already feel like part of the terror.”
Zelenskyy further said that air raid alerts were issued on Tuesday night across nearly the whole country.
Remarks made by the chairman of the lower house of parliament suggested that Russia may wish to expand its stated war aims, having abandoned offensives in the capital of Kyiv and second largest city of Kharkiv in the face of fierce Ukrainian resistance early in the conflict.
Russia is bracing for a long war, and the Duma passed two bills in their first reading that would allow the government to oblige firms to supply the military and make staff work overtime to support the invasion.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has told troops involved in capturing Luhansk who would also be part of any attempt to capture cities in Donetsk to “rest and recover their military preparedness” while units elsewhere in Ukraine keep fighting.
More than 7.1 million Ukrainians are estimated to be displaced within Ukraine, according to the UN refugee agency, with more than 4.8 million having left the country since Russia’s invasion began in late February.