War in Ukraine: Zelensky promises to regain lost positions after Russia captures Lysichansk

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged on Sunday that Kyiv forces had abandoned the strategic city in the east of Donbass after a hard-fought Russian offensive. But he promised to regain control of the area with long-range Western weapons.

Moscow claimed that taking Lisichansk meant “liberating” the Luhansk region less than a week after taking neighboring Severdonetsk.

Lysychansk was the last Ukrainian stronghold in Lugansk, a key Russian target. Capturing it would give Moscow’s forces a stronger base from which to advance into the Donbass, an old industrial region with mines and factories that Vladimir Putin is seeking to take over.

The focus of the battlefield is now shifting to the neighboring Donetsk region, where Kyiv still controls patches of territory.

Ukraine will not give up anything, Zelensky said

In his late-night address on Sunday evening, Zelenskiy acknowledged the troop withdrawal but was adamant that Ukraine would never “give up on anything.”

“We will return, thanks to our tactics, thanks to an increase in the supply of modern weapons,” he said.

The President of Ukraine has said that Russia is concentrating its firepower on the Donbas front, but that Ukraine will retaliate with long-range weapons such as US-supplied HIMARS rocket launchers.

“An equally important role is played by the fact that we protect the lives of our soldiers, our people. We will rebuild the walls, we will retake the land, and the people must be protected first of all,” he said.

Zelenskiy insisted that Kyiv forces were “advancing” elsewhere, in areas around Kharkiv in the northeast and Kherson in the south. “The day will come when we will say the same about the Donbass,” he added.

After abandoning its offensive on the capital Kyiv, Russia has focused its military operation on the industrial heartland of Donbass, which includes the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, where Moscow-backed separatist proxies have been fighting Ukraine since 2014.

Moscow has said it will hand over Lugansk to the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, which is backed by Russia and whose independence it recognized on the eve of the war.

But Zelenskiy ridiculed Moscow’s achievements. “What is all this for? So that crazy propagandists can show the Russian or Soviet flag in ruins somewhere in their broadcasts. There is simply no other answer,” he said in his Sunday evening address.

Russia is not weakening in the offensive to the east

On Monday, the Russian army continued its advance into eastern Ukraine, advancing its plan to seize the entire Donbas after taking Lisichansk.

In Slavyansk, which had about 100,000 inhabitants before the war, Russian strikes killed six people on Sunday, including a nine-year-old girl.

The Ukrainian authorities are now urging residents to leave the region, and the front line is only a few kilometers away.

Ukrainian forces appear to be trying to defend the line between Seversk – about 20km west of Lysychansk – and Bakhmut to protect Slovyansk and Kramatorsk.

“The enemy has intensified shelling of our positions in the direction of Bakhmut,” the Ukrainian army headquarters confirmed in its first message on Monday morning.

Monday starts Conference on the restoration of Ukraine in Lugano which, in the words of President Zelensky, could “be an important step for the reconstruction of Ukraine.”

The conference will be co-hosted by Switzerland and Ukraine from 4 to 5 July and is positioned as an opportunity for Ukraine to work with international partners on a plan to rebuild and rebuild the country.