“De-occupation of Luhansk has begun,” says regional Ukrainian leader

The “de-occupation” of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region “has begun,” according to a regional official.

“Several settlements have already been liberated from the Russian army, from the Russian occupiers,” Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region’s Ukrainian military administration, said on national television Wednesday.

“All those soldiers realize that a counterattack is just inevitable, they are being defeated.”

After regaining the key eastern city of Lyman, in the Donetsk region, over the weekend, Ukrainian forces have continued their counteroffensive, pushing into the Luhansk region, pro-Russian officials and propagandists said on Monday.

Russia controls nearly all of Ukraine’s Luhansk region. Ukrainian forces liberated the Luhansk village of Bilohorivka at the end of September.

Hayday urged residents who fled their homes earlier this year not to try to return.

“I’d like to appeal to everyone,” he said. “First, do not get ahead of yourselves, do not rush to bring stuff and come back. We will let you know when and where exactly you can return. Because it is necessary that the Armed Forces of Ukraine move the front line further, and only then it will be possible to enter certain settlements. The territory must be demined.”

He also urged residents in occupied areas of Luhansk to try to evacuate away from the front line, or to stay in shelters.

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