Ukrainian army announces withdrawal from last major city in Luhansk

Kyiv says decision made ‘to preserve the lives of Ukrainian defenders’ after weeks of heavy bombardment of Lysychansk

<p>The remains of a building in Lysychansk, in the Luhansk region of Ukraine, after a Russian attack </p>

The remains of a building in Lysychansk, in the Luhansk region of Ukraine, after a Russian attack

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The Ukrainian military has confirmed it has withdrawn from Lysychansk, the last major city the country’s forces held in the key eastern province of Luhansk.

Earlier on Sunday, Russia’s defence minister Sergei Shoigu had told president Vladimir Putin that Luhansk had been “liberated” – a claim Ukrainian defence officials initially denied.

But in a statement posted Sunday evening to an official Facebook page, Ukraine’s office of the general staff said after “heavy fighting” they had pulled back to protect their troops.

“We continue the fight. Unfortunately, steel will and patriotism are not enough for success – material and technical resources are needed,” the statement read.

“In order to preserve the lives of Ukrainian defenders, a decision was made to withdraw,” it added.

The announcement came as six people were killed in another eastern Ukrainian city, Slovyansk, after it was hit by powerful shelling from Russian multiple rocket launchers, local officials said.

The attack caused nearly 15 fires in the city in the industrial Donbas region, Mayor Vadym Lyakh wrote on Telegram.

Russia also reported explosions on Sunday in its city of Belgorod, some 40km (25 miles) north of the border with Ukraine. Three people were killed and homes were damaged or destroyed.

Senior Russian MP Andrei Klishas accused Ukraine of shelling Belgorod and called for a stern response.

Moscow has accused Kyiv of numerous attacks on Belgorod and other areas bordering Ukraine. Kyiv has not claimed responsibility.

Meanwhile, in the Russian-occupied southern Ukrainian city of Melitopol, Ukrainian forces hit a military base with more than 30 strikes on Sunday, the city’s exiled mayor Ivan Fedorov said in a video address on Telegram.

He said the base had been “taken out of action”.

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