Russia takes small cities, aims to widen east Ukraine battle

Russia takes small cities, aims to widen east Ukraine battle

Kramatorsk (Ukraine), May 28: Russia asserted Saturday that its troops and separatist fighters had captured a key railway junction in eastern Ukraine, the second small city to fall to Moscow's forces this week as they fought to seize all of the country's contested Donbas region.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the city of Lyman had been completely liberated by a joint force of Russian soldiers and the Kremlin-backed separatists, who have waged war in the eastern region bordering Russia for eight years. Lyman, which had a population of about 20,000 before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, serves as a regional railway hub. Ukraine's train system has ferried arms and evacuated citizens during the war, and it wasn't immediately clear how the development might affect either capability.

Controlling the city would give the Russian military a foothold for advancing on larger Ukrainian-held cities in Donetsk and Luhansk, the two provinces that make up the Donbas. Since failing to occupy Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, Russia has concentrated on seizing the last parts of the region not controlled by the separatists.

If Russia did succeed in taking over these areas, it would highly likely be seen by the Kremlin as a substantive political achievement and be portrayed to the Russian people as justifying the invasion, the British Ministry of Defense said in a Saturday assessment. Fighting continued Saturday around Sievierodonetsk and nearby Lysychansk, twin cites that are last major areas under Ukrainian control in Luhansk province. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated that the situation in the east was difficult but expressed confidence his country would prevail.

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