Fall of Lysychansk takes Russia closer to goal of taking over Donbas

From CNN's Ivana Kottasová, Yulia Kesaieva, Hannah Ritchie, Mariya Knight, Radina Gigova and Jonny Hallam

Luhansk is one of the two regions that form Donbas, the eastern part of Ukraine where a conflict between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists started in 2014.

The area has became the centerpiece of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military ambition in Ukraine after his troops failed to take over Kyiv earlier this year.

The fall of Lysychansk takes Russia closer to achieving its goal of taking over Donbas.

“After heavy fighting for Lysychansk, the Defense Forces of Ukraine were forced to withdraw from their occupied positions and lines,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said Sunday on Twitter.

Pro-Russia separatists in the area had already claimed a victory in the battle over Lysychansk. Leonid Pasechnik, the leader of the Russian-backed self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, declared the Luhansk region “liberated.”

Only Russia and Syria recognize the Luhansk People’s Republic as independent. Ukraine and its western allies consider it part of Ukrainian territory, currently under Russian occupation.

Video shared by Russian state news outlet Ria Novosti on Saturday purports to show residents installing the old Soviet Union flag at the Memorial to the Fallen in Lysychansk.

Fate of Luhansk: The Institute for the Study of War said Russia will likely establish control over the rest of the Luhansk region in the coming days. After that, the institute said in its latest update, Russian troops will likely focus on Ukrainian positions in Siversk, west of Lysychansk, before turning inland to Sloviansk and Bakhmut.

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