Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday officially declared victory over Ukraine’s Luhansk province following a massive month-long advance.
Apparently Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu reported news of the Russian military victory to Putin during a televised meeting that aired this week, adding that “the operation” was completed last weekend after Russian troops overtook the Ukrainian city of Lysychansk.
Ukraine’s defeat in Luhansk signifies a major setback for the Western-backed Eastern European state, as the territory makes up for half of the entirety of the long-contested Donbass region along with the Donetsk province, which is already largely under Russian control.
Putin stated that the victorious forces in Luhansk “should rest, increase their combat capabilities,” as, according to the Ukrainian General Staff, Russian efforts are turning to the remaining Donetsk lines in Siversk, Fedorovka and Bakhmut.
Additionally, according to Ukraine, Russia has begun to intensify shelling and artillery fire on key Ukrainian areas such as Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, which lie deeper within the Donetsk territory.
The British Defense Ministry agreed with the Ukrainian military on Monday during an intelligence briefing in which they noted that Russian forces will “now almost certainly” switch to capturing Donetsk in light of the pivotal victory in Luhansk.
Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky in a statement acknowledged the defeat, but vowed to return and continue fighting, appearing to cite an influx of foreign aid and weaponry — a majority of which comes from the United States.
“If the command of our army withdraws people from certain points of the front where the enemy has the greatest fire superiority, in particular this applies to Lysychansk, it means only one thing: We will return thanks to our tactics, thanks to the increase in the supply of modern weapons,” Zelensky said.
Russia launched it’s self-proclaimed “special military operation” in February with the apparent intention of capturing the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine, which it claims has been under attack by the Ukrainian government since 2014. Ukraine and western nations maintain that Russia’s military endeavor was an unprovoked and unjustified invasion of the country.
In the early weeks of the offensive, Kiev and other Northeastern Ukrainian areas were attacked by Russian forces. Mainstream reports and western governments insist that this was indicative of a failed Russian attempt at toppling the Ukrainian government.
However, some experts have theorized that Russia’s initial northern attacks were a part of a diversionary tactic to cause Ukraine to dedicate military forces and related resources away from the Donbas, where a majority of the fighting was and continues to be taking place.