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Ukraine may have endured its worst week since the fall of Mariupol

Ukrainian troops leave Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region on June 21, as Ukraine says Russian shelling has caused “catastrophic destruction” in the eastern industrial city of Lysychansk. (Anatoly Stepanov/AFP/Getty Images)

Ukrainian authorities have acknowledged the loss of several communities near the city of Lysychansk, the only conurbation in the Luhansk region that they still control.

“The Russians are closing in on Lysychansk, entrenching themselves in nearby towns. The city is being bombarded by planes,” according to Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk regional military administration.

Hayday acknowledged that it was “difficult” in the area south of Lysychansk. “The enemy entered Toshkivka, which allowed him to increase fire on other settlements.”

He said Russian forces were entrenched in several villages immediately south of Lysychansk, including Ustynivka, Pidlisne and Myrna Dolyna, and were advancing towards Bila Hora. “It is not easy for our soldiers to maintain defense,” he admitted.

Hayday’s comments suggest that the Ukrainian defenses around Lysychansk have begun to give way to much larger Russian firepower after weeks of bombardment.

He said “street fighting continues in Severodonetsk”, where Ukrainian defenders still occupy a part of the Azot chemical plant.

But he said the Russians were trying to surround Ukrainian units in some areas (such as Borivske) near Lysychansk and Severodonetsk. Military analysts have said the risk of a Russian advance from the south means some Ukrainian troops could be cut off.

Hayday added: “Lysychansk is under heavy fire now. The city is bombarded with artillery, tanks and planes. There are at least three civilians injured there, several policemen were injured.” She said that police and security service buildings were hit by missiles.

Throughout its campaign, Russia has used the tactic of heavy bombardment before attempting to take territory.

Elsewhere, the Ukrainian Army General Staff said Russia kept up to three battalion tactical groups and airborne units in border areas as potential reinforcements.

Settlements near Kharkiv had been heavily shelled, he said. On Tuesday, 15 people were reported killed by artillery strikes in the area.

In the Donetsk region, the General Staff said Russian forces were using multiple rocket launch systems “to create conditions for the resumption of the offensive in the city of Sloviansk.”

But he also said that Ukrainian units had prevented the Russians from advancing on Bakhmut from the south.

Elsewhere, along active front lines stretching more than 1,000 kilometers, the Ukrainians reported shelling settlements in the Donetsk and Zaporizhzhia regions.

The head of the Donetsk regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said six children were injured and one person was killed in the shelling of Chasiv Yar. He said the cluster munitions had landed on a beach in a city lake.

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