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Russia moves to consolidate gains in east Ukraine, increases firepower in Donetsk

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A Ukrainian child plays with the family dog in the heavily damaged village of Kukhari near Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday. The Russian war in Ukraine is in its fifth month. Photo by Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA-EFE
A Ukrainian child plays with the family dog in the heavily damaged village of Kukhari near Kyiv, Ukraine, on Monday. The Russian war in Ukraine is in its fifth month. Photo by Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA-EFE

July 5 (UPI) -- Russian forces on Tuesday opened up attacks on other parts of eastern Ukraine after it took control of Lysychansk last weekend, prompting officials in the Donetsk region to urge residents to evacuate.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Monday that by taking Lysychansk, Russian troops had liberated a key area of Luhansk province -- which is one of two in eastern Ukraine that Moscow has been focused on controlling for the past three months.

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Intelligence officials say that Russia's military has now turned its forces on Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Bakhmut and has hit those areas with sustained shelling. The mayor of Sloviansk urged citizens Tuesday to evacuate immediately.

Since April, Russian forces have been primarily focused on capturing control of the Donbas, a large swath of eastern Ukaine that includes the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

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"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," said the British Defense Ministry on Twitter.

"Unlike in previous phases of the war, Russia has probably achieved reasonably effective coordination between at least two Groupings of Forces, the Central Grouping likely commanded by General-Colonel Alexandr Lapin and the Southern Grouping probably under the recently appointed General Sergei Surovikin."

A group of men carry the coffin of Ukrainian soldier and politician Oleg Kytsyn during his funeral at Baikove Cemetery in Kyiv, Ukraine, on June 22. Photo by Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA-EFE

Last month, Moscow gained full control of Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region, which was the largest remaining city in eastern Ukraine that wasn't under full Russian control. It took Russian troops several weeks, however, to win control of the city from the Ukrainian resistance.

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In the Donetsk region, the chief of its regional military administration said on Tuesday that fighting Russian troops has been difficult for Ukrainian forces.

"There is not a single safe city in Donetsk region where there is no shelling," the military leader, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said according to CNN.

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"In cities that are relatively far from the front line, cruise missiles are used [while] all types of artillery, tanks, missiles, aerial bombs [target the front line.]"

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In a small measure of victory, Ukrainian forces have raised Ukraine's flag on the strategic Black Sea outpost of Snake Island -- which is considered to be key in breaking Moscow's blockade of grain and other goods from the country.

"The military operation has been concluded, and the territory, Snake Island, has been returned to the jurisdiction of Ukraine," Natalia Humeniuk, a spokesperson for Ukraine's southern military command, said according to The Guardian.

Snake Island gained some significance in the early days of the Russian war in February when a band of Ukrainian troops loudly resisted invading Russian forces there.

The fighting in Ukraine is now in its fifth month. Last week, U.S. President Joe Biden and other Western leaders gathered for a NATO summit in Spain and pledged continued support for Ukraine.

Biden said that the United States will continue to support Kyiv and vowed that Ukraine won't be defeated by Russia.

NATO leaders gather in Madrid

U.S. President Joe Biden gestures during a news conference on the final day of a NATO summit in Madrid on June 30, 2022. Photo by Paul Hanna/UPI | License Photo

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