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Russia-Ukraine war: Lysychansk could fall, Zelenskiy adviser admits; three killed in blasts in Russian city near Ukraine – live

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Zelenskiy adviser concedes Lysychansk could fall

An adviser to the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has conceded Lysychansk could fall, as fighting intensified in the country’s last big bastion in the strategic eastern province of Luhansk.

Oleksiy Arestovych
said Russian forces had crossed the Siverskiy Donets River and were approaching the key city from the north, Reuters reported.

“This is indeed a threat. We shall see,” he said. “I do not rule out any one of a number of outcomes here. Things will become much more clear within a day or two.”

Ukrainian troops on the eastern front lines describe intense artillery barrages on residential areas, while Kyiv says Moscow has intensified missile attacks on cities far from the main eastern battlefields.

Smoke rises from Lysychansk amid heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces
Smoke rises from Lysychansk amid heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Ukrainian firefighters extinguish a fire at a destroyed residential building in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, on Sunday morning (Luhansk region military administration via AP)
Ukrainian firefighters extinguish a fire at a destroyed residential building in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, on Sunday morning (Luhansk region military administration. Photograph: AP
A burned car and damaged residential buildings are seen in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, on Sunday (Luhansk region military administration via AP)
A burned car and damaged residential buildings are seen in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, on Sunday (Luhansk region military administration. Photograph: AP
Damaged residential buildings in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine, on Sunday Luhansk region military administration via AP)
Damaged residential buildings in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine, on Sunday Luhansk region military administration. Photograph: AP

Russian forces are strengthening their position in a fight to capture the last stronghold of resistance in Ukraine’s Luhansk province, according to the region’s governor.

Ukrainian fighters have been trying to defend the city of Lysychansk for weeks in a bid to prevent it falling to Russia, as neighbouring Sievierodonetsk did last week, AP reports.

“The occupiers threw all their forces on Lysychansk. They attacked the city with incomprehensibly cruel tactics,” Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said on the Telegram messaging app.

Plumes of smoke seen rising from Lysychansk, Ukraine, during heavy fighting between Ukrainian forces with Russian troops on Friday (Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Plumes of smoke seen rising from Lysychansk, Ukraine, during heavy fighting between Ukrainian forces with Russian troops on Friday (Narciso Contreras/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images) Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

“They suffer significant losses, but stubbornly advance. They are gaining a foothold in the city.”

A river separates Lysychansk from Sievierodonetsk. Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, said during an online interview late Saturday that Russian forces had managed for the first time to cross the river from the north, creating a “threatening” situation.

Arestovych said they had not reached the centre of the city but that the course of the fighting indicated the battle for Lysychansk would be decided by Monday.

If Lysychansk falls, the entire Luhansk region could come under Russian control. You can read more about the Russian assault on the city here:

A US-backed campaign is giving Russians access to anti-censor software to dodge Moscow’s crackdown on dissent against its invasion of Ukraine, involved groups told Agence France-Presse.

Russia has intensified its restrictions on independent media since its invasion in February, with journalists under threat of prosecution for criticising the invasion or for even referring to it as a war.

The US government-backed Open Technology Fund (OTF) is paying out money to a handful of American firms providing virtual private networks (VPNs) free of charge to millions of Russians, who can then use them to visit websites blocked by censors.

The use of VPN software to create what is effectively a private tunnel on the internet for data, typically encrypted, to flow safeguarded from snooping has boomed in Russia since the invasion

A spokesman for Lantern, one of the companies involved, said: “Our tool is primarily used by people trying to access independent media, so that funding by the OTF has been absolutely critical.”

Tech firms Psiphon and nthLink have also been providing anti-censorship applications to people in Russia, with OTF estimating that 4 million users in Russia have received VPNs from the firms.

You can read more about the use of VPNs to circumvent bans to some websites here:

Zelenskiy adviser concedes Lysychansk could fall

An adviser to the Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has conceded Lysychansk could fall, as fighting intensified in the country’s last big bastion in the strategic eastern province of Luhansk.

Oleksiy Arestovych
said Russian forces had crossed the Siverskiy Donets River and were approaching the key city from the north, Reuters reported.

“This is indeed a threat. We shall see,” he said. “I do not rule out any one of a number of outcomes here. Things will become much more clear within a day or two.”

Ukrainian troops on the eastern front lines describe intense artillery barrages on residential areas, while Kyiv says Moscow has intensified missile attacks on cities far from the main eastern battlefields.

Smoke rises from Lysychansk amid heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces
Smoke rises from Lysychansk amid heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Summary

Hello and welcome to the Guardian’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine. It is approaching 10am in Kyiv. Here’s a summary of the latest developments.

  • At least three people were killed and dozens of residential buildings damaged in the Russian city of Belgorod on Sunday, the region’s governor said, after earlier reports of several blasts in the city near the Ukrainian border. Vyacheslav Gladkov said at least 11 apartment buildings and 39 private residential houses were damaged, including five houses destroyed. Reuters was not able to independently verify the reports and there was no immediate reaction from Ukraine. Gladkov said earlier on the Telegram messaging app: “Reasons for the incident are being investigated. Presumably, the air defence system worked.”
  • The Ukrainian army has rejected claims that Russian-backed separatists and Russian forces have surrounded the key eastern city of Lysychansk. A Ukrainian national guard spokesman, Ruslan Muzytchuk, said fighting was raging around the city but it remained under Ukrainian control. Russian media showed videos of Luhansk province militia parading in Lysychansk streets waving flags and cheering,
  • British intelligence says Russian forces are continuing to achieve “minor advances” in Lysychansk amid the continuing air and artillery strikes. Ukrainian forces probably continue to block Russian forces in the city’s south-eastern outskirts, according to the latest UK Ministry of Defence report.
  • Russia’s defence ministry has said its forces destroyed five Ukrainian army command posts in Donbas and in the Mykolaiv region, according to Russian state media. Three weapons storage sites were also destroyed in the Zaporizhzhia region in south-east Ukraine, the ministry was quoted as saying. The claims have not been independently verified.
  • The president of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, has claimed Ukraine attempted to strike military facilities on Belarusian territory. Reuters, citing the state-run Belta news agency, reported that Lukashenko said – without providing evidence – that Ukrainian armed forces tried to strike facilities in Belarus three days ago but the missiles were intercepted. He claimed Ukraine was attempting to provoke Belarus but his country did not plan to intervene in the conflict.
  • Rescue workers have recovered as many as 29 body fragments amid the rubble of deadly Russian missile strikes on a shopping centre in the Ukrainian city of Kremenchuk, Ukraine’s state emergency service said. At least 19 people were killed on Monday after two Russian X-22 cruise missiles hit a crowded shopping centre in Kremenchuk, officials said.
  • The British government has condemned the exploitation of prisoners of war as two more British men held by Russian proxies in east Ukraine and charged with “mercenary activities” could face the death penalty. Andrew Hill of Plymouth and Dylan Healy of Huntingdon were reported to have been charged with “forcible seizure of power” and undergoing “terrorist” training, according to a state news agency in Russian-controlled Donetsk.
  • A Briton and a Moroccan man sentenced to death by pro-Russia officials in Russian-controlled east Ukraine have appealed against their sentences, Russian state media reported. The supreme court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic has received appeals from lawyers for Brahim Saadoun and Shaun Pinner, according to the Russian state-owned news agency Tass. Another Briton sentenced to death by the Russian proxy court, Aiden Aslin, had not yet submitted an appeal, Tass reports.
  • A series of recent assassination attempts targeting pro-Russian officials suggests a growing resistance movement against Russian-backed authorities occupying parts of southern Ukraine, according to US officials. The resistance could grow into a wider counterinsurgency that would pose a significant challenge to Russia’s ability to control captured Ukrainian territories, CNN cited officials as saying.

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