Ukraine latest updates: Ukrainian forces withdraw from Lysychansk

Ukraine news from July 3: Ukrainian military says the decision to retreat was made to ‘preserve’ the lives of defenders as not withdrawing from the city would lead to ‘fatal consequences’.

A man rides a bicycle among debris in Lysychansk, Ukraine.
A man rides a bicycle among debris in Lysychansk, Ukraine [File: Anatolii Stepanov/AFP]
  • Ukraine has confirmed the retreat of its forces from Lysychansk in the Luhansk region.
  • The mayor of the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk says shelling from multiple rocket launchers has killed “many” people and caused 15 fires.
  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko states his country is being “provoked”, claims Ukraine fired several missiles at military targets inside Belarus.
  • Ukrainian forces hit a Russian base with more than 30 attacks in the Russian-occupied city of Melitopol without causing any casualties.INTERACTIVE - WHO CONTROLS WHAT IN UKRAINE- JULY3,2022

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These were the updates on Sunday, July 3:

Ukraine leader says forces will return to Lysychansk

President Zelenskyy has acknowledged that Ukrainian forces had withdrawn from Lysychansk but pledged to restore control over the city thanks to the military’s tactics and the prospect of new, improved weaponry.

“If the commanders of our army withdraw people from certain points at the front, where the enemy has the greatest advantage in firepower, and this also applies to Lysychansk, it means only one thing,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address.

“That we will return thanks to our tactics, thanks to the increase in the supply of modern weapons.”

Capture of Lysychansk ‘strategic win’, but also a potential problem for Russia: AJ Correspondent

Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Kyiv, said that while the takeover of Lysychansk by Russian forces was a “big strategic win” for Moscow in the battle for the eastern Donbas region, the large number of resources Russia deployed in the region may mean its forces are weaker elsewhere.

“They’ve been battling [in Lysychansk] for a number of weeks. It became one of their main aims to take this area after they realised that they weren’t going to sweep through Kyiv and take that in the early stages of the war. So they diverted a great deal of resources down to the Donbas region – including in cities like this [Lysychansk],” he said.

“But this could be a problem for them … because they have concentrated so many resources to this fight in the Donbas that they have weakened their forces elsewhere. And the Ukrainians may sense that there is an opportunity to strike back at the Russians where they are weakest.”

Search and rescue workers and residents remove a body from under the rubble of a building after a Russian air raid in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine.
Search and rescue workers and residents remove a body from under the rubble of a building after a Russian air raid in Lysychansk [File: Efrem Lukatsky/AP Photo]

Six dead amid Russian shelling in Sloviansk

At least six people have been killed in the eastern Ukrainian city after it was hit by Russian shelling from multiple rocket launchers, local officials said.

Donetsk regional administration spokeswoman Tetiana Ihnatchenko told Ukraine’s public news network that 15 people had been wounded in the attack on Sloviansk.

Russian diplomats depart Bulgaria

Two Russian aircraft departed Bulgaria on Sunday with scores of Russian diplomatic staff and their families amid a mass expulsion that has sent tensions soaring between the historically close nations, a Russian diplomat said.

Filip Voskresenski, a high-ranking Russian diplomat, told journalists at the airport in Bulgaria’s capital Sofia before the flights left that he was among the 70 Russian diplomatic staff declared “persona non grata” last week and ordered to leave the country by the end of Sunday.

Germany among nations ‘doing most’ for Ukraine: Scholz

Germany is one of the countries “doing the most” to provide military aid to war-torn Ukraine, Chancellor Scholz has said, while defending his country’s delays in delivering weapons to Kyiv.

The long delays for German weapons, compared to the speedy deliveries of US arms, are due to the need to train Ukrainian soldiers in Germany, Scholz told CBS News on the talk show “Face the Nation”.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz delivers a speech ahead of the next EU summit during a session at the Bundestag (lower house of parliament) in Berlin on May 19
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz  [File: Tobias Schwarz/AFP]

Ukrainian army announces retreat from Lysychansk

Ukraine’s military command has said its soldiers had retreated from the strategic eastern city of Lysychansk after weeks of fierce fighting with Russian troops.

“The continuation of the defence of the city would lead to fatal consequences. In order to preserve the lives of Ukrainian defenders, a decision was made to withdraw,” it said in a statement posted on social media.

Earlier in the day, Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy denied that Russian forces have fully seized the last Ukrainian stronghold in Luhansk province.

The city of “Lysychansk is still being fought for,” he told a news conference with Australia’s Prime Minister Albanese.

 The palace of culture is burnt-out after shelling in Lysychansk
The palace of culture is burnt-out after shelling in Lysychansk [File: Oleksandr Ratushniak/EPA]

Germany’s Scholz claims Moscow invasion planned ‘one year’ earlier

Russian President Putin’s decision to invade neighbouring Ukraine has been made well in advance, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has claimed.

“I think the decision to – to do this war was taken one year before it started or possibly earlier, because he [Putin] prepared for it,” the German leader said in an interview with US broadcaster CBS
published in its entirety on Sunday.

“And so he will be able to continue with the war really a long time,” Scholz added.

Lysychansk capture ‘victory’ for Russia but Moscow will continue to face pushback: Academic

Michael Clarke, a visiting professor at King’s College London says that while Russia’s capture of Lysychansk is a win for Moscow, it will continue to face significant pushback from the Ukrainians.

“If you look at [Russia’s] ambitions, they were much greater, even in the Donbas,” he said. “They are taking a very small bite which gives them Luhansk. But they have not yet got Donetsk which is the bigger oblast. They have some of it, but not all of it. They will have to take Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.”

damaged residential buildings are seen in Lysychansk
Damaged residential buildings are seen in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine, early Sunday, July 3, 2022 [Luhansk region military administration via AP Photo]

Australia to supply Ukraine with armoured vehicles

Australia will provide Ukraine with 34 additional armoured vehicles and prohibit the import of Russian gold import, Reuters reports.

Speaking at a news conference in Kyiv alongside President Zelenskyy, Prime Minister Albanese said Australia would also impose sanctions and travel bans on 16 more Russian ministers and oligarchs, bringing the total number of Russian individuals sanctioned by Canberra to 843.

Albanese said Australia would give Ukraine 14 more armoured personnel carriers and 20 Bushmaster vehicles.

Albanese in Kyiv
Australia will provide Ukraine with 34 additional armoured vehicles and prohibit the import of Russian gold import [Oleksiy Kuleba via Telegram/Handout via Reuters]

Ukraine thanks US for missile system

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov has expressed thanks to US President Joe Biden and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin for the latest military aid package.

The US said it would supply Ukraine with National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile System (NASAMS) as part of an $820m package.

Reznikov described the move as “another significant step in support of Ukraine”.

Russia-Ukraine war: List of key events, day 130

As the Russia-Ukraine war enters its 130th day, we take a look at the main developments. Read more here.

damaged residential buildings are seen in Lysychansk
Smoke rises over the remains of a building destroyed by a military strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Lysychansk, Luhansk region [File: Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters]

West blocking peace with Ukraine: Peskov

Moscow has accused the Western nations of preventing peace negotiations with Ukraine and thus dragging out the war.

“Now is the moment when Western countries are betting everything on a continuation of the war,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told state television, German news agency DPA reported.

Under the leadership of the United States, the West was not allowing Ukrainians “to think about peace, nor to talk about it, nor to discuss it,” Peskov said.

Australia PM Albanese visits Irpin

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese visited Irpin on Sunday saying it was “devastating” to see residential buildings destroyed from the result of shelling. it “a war crime.”

“And here we have what – clearly a residential building. Another one just behind it. Brutally assaulted. You know, this is a war crime, “he said.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, center, listens to a translator, during his visit to Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv
Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, center, listens to a translator, during his visit to Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, Ukraine, Sunday, July 3, 2022 [Nariman El-Mofty/AP Photo]

Shelling hits Sloviansk, ‘many killed’

The eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk is hit by powerful shelling from multiple rocket launchers and many people are killed and wounded, according to the city’s Mayor Vadim Lyakh.

“There are 15 fires. Many killed and wounded,” Lyakh wrote on Telegram. He said it was the most powerful shelling of the city recently.

‘Lysychansk capture is strategically significant if confirmed’

Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from Kyiv, says if the capture of Lysychansk is confirmed, it would mean that the Russians have control of the whole of the Luhansk region.

“Add that to the gains that the Russians already made in Donetsk, that means that the whole of the Donbas area would be under Russia’s control,” he said.

“That is strategically significant because that is where the Russians moved their military attention to after they failed to move into Kyiv in the early days of the war when they were beaten back from the capital.”

Russia’s defence minister reports capture of Lysychansk

Russia’s defence minister says Moscow’s forces have taken control of the last major Ukrainian-held city in Ukraine’s Luhansk province.

Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told President Putin that “as a result of successful military operations, the armed forces of the Russian Federation, together with units of the People’s Militia of the Luhansk People’s Republic, have established full control over the city of Lysychansk”, according to Russian news agencies.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu attends a meeting
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu [File: Mikhail Metzel, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP]

Lysychansk ‘completely’ encircled: Russia-backed separatists

Ukrainian separatists backed by Russia say they had “completely” encircled the key city of Lysychansk in the eastern Luhansk region.

“Today, the Luhansk popular militia and Russian forces occupied the last strategic heights, which allows us to confirm that Lysychansk is completely encircled,” Andrei Marotchko, a spokesman for the separatist forces, told the TASS news agency.

The Ukrainian army, however, rejected the claims that Lysychansk has been surrounded, but said heavy fighting was ongoing on its edges.

“Fighting rages around Lysychansk. (But) luckily the city has not been encircled and is under control of the Ukrainian army,” Ruslan Muzytchuk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Guard, said on Ukrainian television.

‘Some of Ukrainian missiles may have hit Belgorod’s residential area’

“We are trying to piece together exactly what happened through social media reports. Al Jazeera cannot confirm anything that either side is saying at this point,” Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher says, reporting from Kyiv.

“What appears is that somewhere around 25 missiles were fired towards the airport which is a Russian base in Belgorod. It appears that some of those missiles may have hit a residential area. That’s certainly what the media is saying …” he said.

“This of course comes  on the back of a Russian attack last week which hit a shopping centre and then on Friday we saw 21 people killed in Odesa and the Ukrainians were accusing the Russians of deliberately targeting residential areas.”

Ukraine hits Russian base in occupied Melitopol: Exiled mayor

Ukrainian forces have hit a Russian base with more than 30 strikes in the Russian-occupied southern city of Melitopol in the region of Zaporizhia, according to the city’s exiled Ukrainian mayor, Ivan Fedorov.

“The Armed Forces of Ukraine do everything to return peaceful life and Ukrainian statehood to Melitopol. All the invaders can do is flee from our city,” he said in a video address published on his Facebook page.

Russia’s RIA news agency also reported that Ukraine had hit the area of Melitopol where the city’s airport is located. It cited local Russian-appointed official Vladimir Rogov as saying that the Ukrainian strikes partially damaged houses in the airport area, without causing any casualties.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said “about 20 units of enemy equipment and two field ammunition depots were destroyed” in Melitopol.

At least three killed in Russia’s Belgorod: Official

At least three people have been killed and dozens of residential buildings damaged in the Russian city of Belgorod, according to the local governor.

Vyacheslav Gladkov said at least 11 apartment buildings and 39 private residential houses were destroyed.

Al Jazeera could not verify the claims independently.

Rescue specialists work at the site of a destroyed residential building after the blasts in Belgorod
Rescue specialists work at the site of a destroyed residential building after the blasts in Belgorod [Alexey Stopichev/BelPressa/Handout via Reuters]

US funds software for Russians to slip past censors

A US-backed campaign is giving Russians access to anti-censor software to dodge Moscow’s crackdown on dissent against its invasion of Ukraine, reports the AFP news agency.

Groups involved in the campaign told AFP that the US-backed Open Technology Fund is paying out money to a handful of American firms providing virtual private networks (VPNs) free of charge to millions of Russians, who can then use them to visit websites blocked by censors.

“Our tool is primarily used by people trying to access independent media, so that funding by the OTF has been absolutely critical,” said a spokesman for Lantern, one of the involved companies.

Explosions in Russian city of Belgorod

A Russian official says blasts in the city of Belgorod, near the border with Ukraine, have resulted in a fire in a residential building.

Vyacheslav Gladkov, the governor of Belgorod, said three wounded people were taken to a hospital.

“Reasons for the incident are being investigated,” he said on the Telegram messaging app. “Presumably, the air defence system worked.”

Ukraine adviser concedes Lysychansk could fall

An adviser to Zelenskyy has conceded that the city of Lysychansk, Ukraine’s last big bastion in the eastern province of Luhansk, could fall to the Russians.

“This is indeed a threat. We shall see. I do not rule out any one of a number of outcomes here. Things will become much more clear within a day or two,” said Oleksiy Arestovych.

“If Lysychansk is taken, strategically it becomes more difficult for the Russians to continue their offensive. The front lines will be flatter and there will be a frontal attack rather than from the flanks.”


‘Colossal investments’ required to rebuild Ukraine, says Zelenskyy

The Ukrainian president has called for international aid to help rebuild his devastated country once the war is over, sounding a rare hopeful note after four months of brutal conflict.

“It is necessary not only to repair everything the occupiers have destroyed, but also to create a new foundation for our lives: safe, modern, comfortable, accessible,” he said in his night-time address.

This would require “colossal investments, billions, new technologies, best practices, new institutions and, of course, reforms,” he said. “No matter how difficult it is for us today, we must remember that there will be a tomorrow.”

Regulator urges Germans to prepare for possible gas shortage

Fearing Russia might cut off natural gas supplies, the head of Germany’s regulatory agency for energy has called on residents to save energy and to prepare for winter, when use increases.

Federal Network Agency President Klaus Mueller urged house and apartment owners to have their gas boilers and radiators checked and adjusted to maximise their efficiency.

“Maintenance can reduce gas consumption by 10 percent to 15 percent,” he told Funke Mediengruppe, a German newspaper and magazine publisher.

Lukashenko says Ukraine fired missiles on Belarus

The Belarusian president says his army has shot down missiles fired into their territory from Ukraine and promised to respond “instantly” to any enemy attack.

“We are being provoked,” Lukashenko was quoted as saying by state news agency Belta.

Read the full story here.

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Read all the updates from yesterday, July 2, here.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies