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Russians only advancing in areas they’ve destroyed, Luhansk official says

Tim Lister in Lviv and Eliza Mackintosh in London

Russian forces are putting intense pressure on the front lines in Luhansk, Ukraine’s easternmost region, as part of its renewed offensive.

Fighting raged over the weekend in Luhansk, with intense gunfights breaking out street after street and towns pounded by artillery shelling. The Ukrainian military said on Sunday that it was continuing to reinforce the east amid heavy assaults and as Russia continues its two-week-old push in the country’s industrial heartland — pouring in more weapons and military equipment.

Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration, told Ukrainian television on Monday that Russian forces were laying waste to villages along the front lines of the region and then pressing forward.

Strategically speaking, the only place they [Russians] can advance in is the areas they have completely destroyed. So they completely destroyed the whole of Novotoshkivka, there was no place to hold the defense — and they occupied it,” Hayday said. Novotoshkivka fell on April 25, according to Ukrainian officials. 

That scorched-earth strategy has forced Ukrainian military forces to pull back in some places, to avoid significant losses of life.

“In Kreminna, we understood that if we just held on to the land, the boys would die, and there would be no harm to the enemy, so we regrouped and left,” Hayday said.

Kreminna was abandoned in mid-April by Ukrainian forces. Hayday also ackowledged that most of the town of Rubizhne was now in Russian hands.

“Rubizhne was destroyed very badly, but it cannot be said that they completely occupied the city, because there are lines of defense on the outskirts and our guys not only keep the defense there, but also constantly harm the enemy. “

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