The Ukrainian National Guard disputed a Russian-backed politician’s assertion that forces had “completely surrounded” Lysychansk, a bombarded Ukrainian city that is key to Russia’s efforts to capture the eastern Donbas region. According to Western analysis, though, the city may be all but overtaken.
Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov told Russian state-owned news agency TASS that Russia had encircled Lysychansk and was preparing to begin a “full-scale offensive” on it. He shared a video on Telegram of Russian forces erecting a red “victory” flag in what he said was the city’s central park.
The Russian Defense Ministry had previously said it was in control of an oil refinery, a mine and a gelatin factory in Lysychansk, according to TASS.
Ukrainian National Guard spokesman Ruslan Muzychuk said Saturday that the city had not fallen.
“There are fierce battles near Lysychansk, but, fortunately, the city is not encircled and is under the control of Ukrainian troops. At the same time, Russia is trying to create favorable conditions for an offensive in the southern regions: the Mykolaiv region and part of the Kharkiv region,” Muzychuk said on Ukrainian national television.
Muzychuk said Russia was continuing to seek control of the border between Luhansk and Donetsk, the provinces that make up Donbas region.
An analysis from the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War (ISW) said Muzychuk’s denials of Lysychansk’s condition probably are “outdated or erroneous.”
The ISW report, published Saturday evening, speculated that the Ukrainian withdrawal from Lysychansk was “deliberate,” and it cited footage of Russian-backed forces “casually walking around” neighborhoods. The Washington Post could not independently confirm the authenticity of the footage.
Vadym Denysenko, an adviser to the Ministry of Internal Affairs in Ukraine, said Russian forces have a “high probability” of capturing the city, according to the ISW analysis.