KRAMatorsk, Ukraine (AFP) – A day after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in the takeover The mayor of a city on the way to Moscow’s offensive, a province in eastern Ukraine essential to his wartime targets, warned residents Tuesday to evacuate ahead of an expected attack.
The warning from the mayor of Sloviansk highlighted fears that Russian forces are in a position to advance Farther in Ukraine’s Donbass region, a predominantly Russian-speaking industrial region where the country’s most experienced soldiers are concentrated.
Sloviansk, which had a population of about 107,000 before the Russian invasion of Ukraine more than four months ago, appears to be the next target. Mayor Vadim Lyakh said the city had been subjected to missile and artillery bombardment during the war, and the bombing had increased since Moscow captured the last major city in the neighboring Luhansk province.
“It is important to evacuate as many people as possible,” he said, adding that the bombing damaged forty homes on Monday.
On Sunday, the Ukrainian army withdrew its forces from the city of Lysichansk to prevent its encirclement. The Russian defense minister and Putin said that the capture of the city then put Moscow in control of all of Luhansk, one of the two provinces that make up Donbass.
The Ukrainian president’s office said the Ukrainian army was still defending a small part of Luhansk and was trying to buy time to establish fortified positions in neighboring regions.
The question now is whether Russia can muster enough force to complete its takeover of Donbass by taking control of Donetsk Province as well. On Monday, Putin acknowledged that the Russian forces that fought in Luhansk need to “take a break and strengthen their combat capabilities.”
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Tuesday that the war in Ukraine will continue until all the goals set by Putin are achieved. However, Shoigu said that Moscow’s “main priorities” at the moment are “preserving the life and health” of the troops, as well as “excluding the threat to the security of civilians.”
When Putin ordered the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, his stated goals were to defend the Donbass population against Kyiv’s alleged aggression, and to “disarm” and “disarm” Ukraine.
Pro-Russian separatists fought Ukrainian forces and controlled much of Donbass for eight years. Before the invasion, Putin recognized the independence of a pair of self-proclaimed breakaway republics in the region. He also sought to portray the tactics of Ukrainian forces and government as similar to the claims of Nazi Germany, for which no evidence has emerged.
The Ukrainian military’s General Staff said Russian forces also shelled several towns and villages in Donetsk around Sloviansk last day but were repelled as they tried to advance towards a town 20 km (12 miles) north of the city. South of the city, Russian forces were trying to advance towards two more towns and bombard areas near Kramatorsk.
Meanwhile, Moscow-appointed officials in southern Ukraine’s Kherson region announced on Tuesday the formation of a new regional government there, headed by a former Russian official.
Sergei Yeliseyev, head of the new Moscow-backed government in Kherson, is a former deputy prime minister of Russia’s western Kaliningrad province who also worked for Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, according to media reports.
It was not immediately clear what would happen to the “civilian military administration” that the Kremlin installed earlier. The head of the administration, Vladimir Saldo, said in a telegram statement that the new government is “not temporary, not military, not some kind of interim administration, but a proper governing body.”
“The fact that not only the residents of Kherson, but also Russian officials are part of this government, clearly speaks of the direction in which the Kherson region will go in the future,” he said. “This trend for Russia.”
There was no immediate comment from Ukrainian officials.
In other developments:
The 30 NATO allies signed the accession protocols for Sweden and FinlandSending bids for membership of the two countries to the capitals of the coalition to obtain legislative approvals. The move further increases Russia’s strategic isolation following its invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February and military conflicts there since. Alliance Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg hailed the signing as “a truly historic moment for Finland, Sweden and NATO”.
The war in Ukraine suddenly pushed millions of dollars away from other crises. Somalia, already facing food shortages largely driven by war, may be the most vulnerable. Its aid funding is less than half of last year’s level while Western donors overwhelmingly sent more than $1.7 billion to respond to the war in Europe. Yemen, Syria, Iraq, South Sudan, Congo and the Palestinian Territories were similarly affected.
Follow the Associated Press’ coverage of the Russian-Ukrainian war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine