Many residents of Lysychansk, once a city of 100,000 people in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region that now lies in ruins, are still living in bomb shelters and basements after its fall to Russian forces.
As a testament to the ferocity of the battle it has endured, the city with its scorched buildings, overturned vehicles and rubble is now eerily quiet with people – including children and the elderly- still in basements and bomb shelters after deciding to remain in the city worried about the safety in other parts of Ukraine.
Moscow has concentrated its military operation in Donbas since abandoning an assault on the capital Kyiv earlier in its invasion of Ukraine. This industrial heartland comprises the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukraine since 2014 and proclaimed independence before the war started.
The fall of Lysychansk on Sunday, about a week after the fall of Sievierdonetsk, has given Russia control of Luhansk – one of its major war goals – as part of, as Russian President Vladimir Putin described it, a special military operation to protect Russian-speaking people in Ukraine and ensure Russian security.
A day after Moscow declared victory in Luhansk, Russian troops launched a major offensive for the neighboring province Donetsk, engaging in heavy fighting supported by artillery fire.
At least two people were killed and seven were injured after the Russian forces struck a market and a residential area in the city of Sloviansk near the front lines in Donetsk.
Despite claiming it does not target civilians, thousands of people have been killed and millions were displaced out of the flattened cities – particularly in Russian-speaking east and southeast areas- shelled by the Russian troops during the near five-month war.