After capturing two strategically important locations close to the border, Russian President Vladimir Putin asked his military leaders to halt operations in Ukraine.
During a meeting with the Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu, Putin advised all units involved in the Luhansk operation to take a break to “build up strength,” according to state media.
“The units that took part in active hostilities and achieved success, victories in the Luhansk direction, of course, should rest, increase their combat capabilities,” Putin said.
One of the final Luhansk cities under Kyiv’s control, Lysychansk, was forced by Russian forces to retreat over the weekend.
On Tuesday, Russian soldiers carried out strikes over the eastern Donetsk region of Ukraine. For the benefit of separatists backed by Moscow in two self-declared people’s republics, Russia claims it intends to seize sovereignty of the entire Donbas region.
Both sides sustained significant losses in the battle for Luhansk, particularly during the siege of the twin cities of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk. The constant Russian bombing has reduced both cities to ashes.
Nina, a young mother who escaped Lysychansk, said, “The city doesn’t exist anymore. It has practically been wiped off the face of the Earth. There is no humanitarian aid distribution center. It has been hit. The building which used to house the center does not exist anymore. Just like many of our houses.”
She sought safety in Dnipro, a city in the center of Ukraine.
Ukrainian officials said they now anticipate Moscow to concentrate its efforts on the cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk in Donetsk after Russian forces took control of Lysychansk on Sunday, the final stronghold of Ukrainian resistance in Luhansk.
Western intelligence agencies claimed that Russia appeared to have improved coordination among military units during the most recent operation.
“Russia’s relatively rapid capture of Lysychansk extends its control across virtually all of the territory of Luhansk Oblast, allowing it to claim substantive progress against the policy objective it presented as the immediate purpose of the war, namely ‘liberating’ the Donbas,” the British Defense Ministry said in a report on Tuesday.
In an independent assessment released Monday, the Institute for the Study of War claimed that Ukrainian forces have been using American-made weapons, including long-range missiles that strike “deep” in Russian-occupied territory, “increasingly targeting Russian military infrastructure.”
The Biden administration sent the weapons to Ukraine as part of several packages with a combined value of more than $40 billion.
“The increased ability of Ukrainian forces to target critical Russian military facilities with Western-provided [High Mobility Artillery Rocket System] demonstrates how Western military aid provides Ukraine with new and necessary military capabilities,” the report said.
In Donetsk, where Ukraine still maintains control over several significant cities, the Russian military ministry announced on Tuesday that it had deployed high-precision weaponry to target command centers and artillery.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy claimed Monday that his nation’s troops were still engaged in combat despite Ukraine’s departure from Lysychansk.
“The armed forces of Ukraine respond, push back and destroy the offensive potential of the occupiers day after day,” Zelenskyy said in a nightly video address.