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Russians try to block city, cement gains in eastern Ukraine

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The Russian forces are trying to capture all of eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.
Russian forces are trying to cut off the strategic city of Lysychansk in eastern Ukraine, the Luhansk regional governor said Saturday, after a relentless assault on nearby Sievierodonetsk forced Ukrainian troops to begin withdrawing. Russia also launched missile attacks on areas far from the heart of the eastern battles. Serhiy Haidai, governor of Luhansk province, said on Facebook that Russian and separatist fighters tried to blockade Lysychansk from the south. The city lies next to Sievierodonetsk, which has endured weeks of bombardment and house-to-house fighting. A boy holds his pet dog as his family evacuated from the war-hit area gets on an evacuation train in Pokrovsk, eastern Ukraine, on Saturday. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)
Russia’s Interfax news agency quoted a spokesman for the separatist forces, Andrei Marochko, as saying Russian troops and separatist fighters had entered Lysychansk and that fighting was taking place in the heart of the city. There was no immediate comment on the claim from the Ukrainian side
Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk have been the focal point of a Russian offensive aimed at capturing all of eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region and destroying the Ukrainian military defending it — the most capable and battle-hardened segment of the country’s armed forces. The two cities and surrounding areas are the last major pockets of Ukrainian resistance in Luhansk, 95% of which is under Russian and local separatist control. The Russians and separatists also control about half of Donetsk, the second province in the Donbas. Russian bombardment has reduced most of Sievierodonetsk to rubble and cut its population from 100,000 to 10,000. Some Ukrainian troops are holed up in the huge Azot chemical factory on the city’s edge, along with about 500 civilians.

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