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Russia Pushes to Block 2nd Ukraine City06/25 07:52


   KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Russian forces are trying to block a city in eastern 
Ukraine, the region's governor said Saturday, after their relentless assault on 
a nearby city forced Ukrainian troops to begin withdrawal after weeks of 
intense fighting.

   Russia also launched missile attacks on areas far from the heart of the 
eastern battles.

   Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region, said on Facebook that Russian 
forces are attempting to blockade the city of Lysychansk from the south. That 
city lies next to Sievierodonetsk, which has endured relentless assault and 
house-to-house fighting for weeks.

   After Haidai said Friday that Ukrainian forces had begun retreating from 
Sievierodonetsk, military analyst Oleg Zhdanov said some of the troops were 
heading for Lysychansk. But Russian moves to cut off Lysychansk will give those 
retreating troops little respite.

   Russian bombardment has reduced most of Sievierodonetsk to rubble and cut 
its population from 100,0000 to 10,000. Some Ukrainian troops are holed up in 
the huge Azot chemical factory on the city's edge, along with about 500 

   Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk have been the focal point of the Russian 
offensive aimed at capturing all of eastern Ukraine's Donbas region and 
destroying the Ukrainian military defending it -- the most capable and 
battle-hardened segment of the country's armed forces. The two cities and 
surrounding areas are the last major pockets of Ukrainian resistance in the 
Luhansk region -- 95% of which is under Russian and local separatist forces' 
control. The Russians and separatists also control about half of the Donetsk 
region, the second province in the Donbas.

   Some 1,000 kilometers (600 miles) to the west, four Russian rockets hit a 
"military object" in Yaroviv, Lviv regional governor Maksym Kozytskyy said. He 
did not give further details of the target, but Yaroviv has a sizable military 
base used for training fighters, including foreigners who have volunteered to 
fight for Ukraine. That base was hit by Russian rockets in March, killing 35 

   The Lviv region, although far from the front lines, has been hit by other 
rockets during the war, destroying fuel storage areas.

   About 30 Russian rockets were fired on the Zhytomyr region in central 
Ukraine on Saturday morning, killing one Ukrainian soldier, regional governor 
Vitaliy Buchenko said.

   In the north, about 20 rockets were fired from Belarus into the Chernihiv 
region, the Ukrainian military said.

   A senior U.S. defense official, speaking in Washington on condition of 
anonymity, on Friday called the Ukrainians' move out of Sievierodonetsk a 
"tactical retrograde" to consolidate forces into positions where they can 
better defend themselves. This will add to Ukraine's effort to keep Russian 
forces pinned down longer in a small area, the official said.

   Following a botched attempt to capture Kyiv, Ukraine's capital, in the early 
stage of the invasion that started Feb. 24, Russian forces have shifted their 
focus to the Donbas, where the Ukrainian forces have fought Moscow-backed 
separatists since 2014.

   After repeated Ukrainian requests to its Western allies for heavier weaponry 
to counter Russia's edge in firepower, four medium-range American rocket 
launchers have arrived, with four more on the way.

   The senior U.S. defense official said Friday that more Ukrainian forces are 
training outside Ukraine to use the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or 
HIMARS, and are expected back in their country with the weapons by mid-July. 
The rockets can travel about 45 miles (70 kilometers). Also to be sent are 18 
U.S. coastal and river patrol boats.

   The official said there is no evidence Russia has been successful in 
intercepting any of what has been a steady flow of military aid into Ukraine 
from the U.S. and other nations. Russia has repeatedly threatened to strike, or 
actually claimed to have hit, such shipments.

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