Moscow Claims Control Over Luhansk Region as Missiles Hit Border Towns

The Russian Defense Ministry has claimed that Russian forces have "liberated" all of Ukraine's Luhansk region.

The ministry on Sunday said Russian forces had captured Lysychansk, the last major Ukrainian-held city in Ukraine's Luhansk province.

Russia's defense minister Sergei Shoigu told President Vladimir Putin that Russia's troops and members of a local separatist militia "have established full control over Lysychansk and some nearby settlements," according to a post on the ministry's Telegram channel.

"The total area of ​​the territories liberated over the past day amounted to 182 square kilometers," the post said.

Smoke rises from Severodonetsk
Smoke rises from Severodonetsk on June 16, 2022 in Lysychansk, Ukraine. Scott Olson/Getty Images

Control of Lysychansk would bring Moscow closer to its stated goal of seizing all of Ukraine's Donbas region.

Ukraine's military did not immediately provide a response, but on Saturday, Ukrainian authorities had said that Lysychansk remained under Ukrainian control.

Early on Sunday, Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said Russian forces were gaining a foothold in the last Ukrainian stronghold in the province.

"The occupiers probably threw all their forces on Lysychansk. They attacked the city with inexplicably brutal tactics," Haidai said on Telegram.

"They are suffering significant losses, but they are stubbornly advancing."

In his latest message on Telegram, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that while there is a "feeling of relaxation" in some parts of Ukraine, the war "is not over, its cruelty is increasing in some places, and it cannot be forgotten.

"Therefore, help the army, help volunteers, help everyone who was left alone at this time. Spread the truth about the war and about the crimes of the occupiers."

The Russian defense ministry on Sunday also accused Ukraine of launching missile and drone attacks on Russian cities near the border with Ukraine.

The ministry claimed Kyiv had targeted residential areas of the cities of Kursk and Belgorod using Tochka-U ballistic missiles with cluster munitions and drones.

The aerial weapons were shot down by air defense systems, the ministry said, but the "wreckage of one of them fell on a residential building" in Belgorod.

Belgorod Governor Vyacheslav Gladkov reported a number of blasts in his city overnight.

In a post on the Telegram messaging app, he said at least three people were killed and dozens of homes were damaged.

Roman Starovoit, the governor of Kursk, said there were casualties after air defense systems shot down two Ukrainian drones.

Starovoit also said the town of Tetkino, on the Ukraine border, had come under mortar fire. "There were no casualties. Our military suppressed the enemy attack with return fire," he said on Telegram.

Ukraine has not claimed responsibility for the incidents.