Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered his defence minister to continue the offensive in Ukraine after Russia captured the city of Lysychansk.
Mr Putin was shown on Russian TV calling on forces on other fronts to pursue their aims according to “previously approved plans”. The capture means that all of Luhansk region is now in Russian hands.
Earlier the region’s Ukrainian governor said the city was abandoned so Russians would not destroy it from a distance.
Soldiers have now moved to new fortified positions, Serhiy Haidai said.Losing the city and ceding control of Luhansk to Russia was painful, he said, but added: “This is just one battle we have lost, but not the war.”
He pleaded for more weapons from the West to offset the Russian advantage.President Volodymyr Zelensky has pledged that Ukrainian forces will return to retake Lysychansk “thanks to the increase in the supply of modern weapons”.
Russia has now stepped up its bombardment of cities in the neighbouring Donetsk region, with the areas around Sloviansk and the road between Lysychansk and Bakhmut in particular being targeted, according to Ukrainian forces.
Together the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk form the industrial Donbas area.
Mr Putin was seen telling Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu that troops who took part in the campaign to capture Luhansk should “rest and develop their combat capabilities”.
“Other military units, including the East group and the West group, must carry out their tasks according to previously approved plans,” he said, expressing the hope that on those fronts they would have similar success to that in Luhansk region.
Just before he launched the invasion of Ukraine on 24 February, Mr Putin recognised all of Luhansk and Donetsk as independent states. Russian proxy forces began an insurgency there in 2014 – the year Russia also annexed the Crimean peninsula. Just over a week ago, Russian troops captured Severodonetsk – which Russian bombardment has reduced to ruins.