Zelensky’s starkest message for Ukraine yet as Putin takes ENTIRE Luhansk region


Ukraine’s reserves are being sent in their civilian cars to fight against Russian tanks due to the huge shortage of equipment as Volodymyr Zelensky desperately pleads the West for more weaponry.

Rick Hillier, Canada’s former chief of defence staff, said civilian volunteers have been left with ‘nothing’, with one unit sent to the fronline in their cars to face off against tanks and armoured vehicles.

The retired general, who visited Ukraine, told The Times: ‘They were getting into position to be able to fight against those Russian tanks and vehicles and they were using their own civilian cars.’

Despite coming up against a depleted civilian force, Vladimir Putin today ordered his defence minister Sergei Shoigu to press ahead with the offensive after seizing the entire Luhansk region with the capture of Lysychansk.

He said: ‘Military units, including the East group and the West group, must carry out their tasks according to previously approved plans. I hope that everything will continue in their direction as has happened in Lugansk so far.’

Soldiers who took part in the Luhansk campaign have now been told by the strongman to ‘rest and rebuild their combat capabilities’ ahead of the next offensive.

Lysychansk had been the final holdout in the Luhansk area of the eastern Donbas region before Ukraine’s withdrawal and Moscow’s capture frees up Russian forces to advance on Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in neighbouring Donetsk. 

Hillier said reservists had initially been told they would only be defending their own villages but Volodymyr Zelensky has recently signed an order meaning they can be deployed throughout the country.

The limit supply of equipment is being given to the professional fighters, leaving the brave volunteers short against the aggressors.

In an address late Sunday, Zelensky vowed Kyiv would fight on and ensure the military had ‘the most modern weapons’, appealing for more long-range HIMARS rocket launchers supplied by the US.

Fire burns at a shopping mall after it was struck by a missile in Sloviansk as Russia steps up its assault on the Donetsk region after seizing Luhansk 

In the latest series of gains, Russia has seized the Luhansk region and has now increased its bombardment of Siversk and Sloviansk. Ukraine has been accused of targeting civilians within the Russian border city of Belgorod although this has been denied by Kyiv

In the latest series of gains, Russia has seized the Luhansk region and has now increased its bombardment of Siversk and Sloviansk. Ukraine has been accused of targeting civilians within the Russian border city of Belgorod although this has been denied by Kyiv

Destruction from a missile attack is seen in Bakhmut City in the Donbas region as Volodymyr Zelensky desperately appeals for more weapons

Destruction from a missile attack is seen in Bakhmut City in the Donbas region as Volodymyr Zelensky desperately appeals for more weapons

A destroyed building is seen in a residential area near Irpin, on Vokzalnaya street, which links the Ukrainian cities of Bucha and Irpin

A destroyed building is seen in a residential area near Irpin, on Vokzalnaya street, which links the Ukrainian cities of Bucha and Irpin

First responders work on the scene where a school was destroyed by early morning shelling in Kharkiv which has been pummelled by Putin's forces

First responders work on the scene where a school was destroyed by early morning shelling in Kharkiv which has been pummelled by Putin’s forces

People look over the wreckage after a missile stuck a shopping mall in Sloviansk in a series of strikes on Sunday afternoon, killing civilains

People look over the wreckage after a missile stuck a shopping mall in Sloviansk in a series of strikes on Sunday afternoon, killing civilains

Vladimir Putin today ordered his defence minister Sergei Shoigu to press ahead with the offensive after seizing the entire Luhansk region with the capture of Lysychansk (pictured together today)

Vladimir Putin today ordered his defence minister Sergei Shoigu to press ahead with the offensive after seizing the entire Luhansk region with the capture of Lysychansk (pictured together today)

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov gloated over the capture of Lysychansk, showing off the city's largely deserted streets

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov gloated over the capture of Lysychansk, showing off the city’s largely deserted streets

Images from the seized city in the east of Ukraine show pro-Russian flags flying from the buildings after the key Moscow victory

Images from the seized city in the east of Ukraine show pro-Russian flags flying from the buildings after the key Moscow victory

Soldiers can be seen erecting a pontoon bridge across a river as Russia gloated over the major breakthrough

Soldiers can be seen erecting a pontoon bridge across a river as Russia gloated over the major breakthrough

Russian journalist locked up in Siberian psychiatric hospital after posting ‘sane people are for peace in Ukraine’ 

A Russian journalist who posted ‘sane people are for peace’ referencing the war in Ukraine has been locked in a Siberian clinical psychiatric hospital.

Maria Ponomarenko, a 44-year-old mother-of-two, claims the authorities are seeking to gag her because of her opposition to the war.

She is accused of spreading ‘fake’ news concerning Putin’s ‘special military operation’ in Ukraine.

One comment seen as against the law by prosecutors said: ‘It is impossible to remain silent, knowing about the death of thousands of innocent people.’

Her ‘fake’ Telegram posts also included critical comments about the Russian bombing of a drama theatre in Mariupol in April where hundreds of civilians were sheltering.

The Russian defence ministry denied its forces were behind the bombing, which it blamed on Ukrainian nationalists.

If convicted of posting her views – which are statements of the obvious in the West – she can face ten years in jail, or indefinite incarceration in a psychiatric facility.

Leading Putin foe Mikhail Khodorkovsky – once Russia’s richest man who was jailed for a decade for opposing the Kremlin leader – branded the case a return to Soviet methods with the state using ‘punitive psychiatry to silence political dissent’.

Reports say that one of the woman’s daughters, aged 16, has been turned by the authorities into a prosecution witness in her case.

Ponomarenko, from Barnaul in Siberia, had been detained in St Petersburg in April.

She was initially held in detention under Russia’s draconian laws barring criticism of the army.

She was moved thousands of miles to Siberia, and has now been locked in the Soviet-era psychiatric hospital for around one month where she will undergo ‘evaluation’.

Zelensky said: ‘It requires many negotiations, but we will ensure such a supply. Ukraine will reach the level when the fire superiority of the occupiers will be levelled.

‘The fact that we protect the lives of our soldiers, our people, plays an equally important role. We will rebuild the walls, we will win back the land, and people must be protected above all else.’

Today, Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov gloated over the capture of Lysychansk, showing off the city’s largely deserted streets and its bombed building after its ‘liberation’. 

Soldiers can be seen erecting a pontoon bridge across a river and flags can be seen being flown from buildings. 

Kadyrov said: ‘For more than four months, the inhabitants of Lysychansk waited for the arrival of Russian soldiers. And now, finally, it happened. The local population shares their impressions and emotions with great pleasure.

‘Seeing a Russian fighter is a great joy for them, because for a long time they were under the gun of Ukrainian nationalists. Moreover, they were used as human shields. The nationalists deliberately located near residential buildings in order to blame Russia for all the troubles that had happened.

‘Retreating, the criminals caused maximum damage to the infrastructure of the city. Based on this, one can understand that the Kyiv regime cares little about the civilian population. Fortunately, we are masters not only in military affairs, but also in the restoration of urban infrastructure. We will restore everything as quickly as we took this city. These streets will soon bloom with all colours, I have no doubt about that.

‘Our brave fighters are fighting this fight primarily for the sake of people who have been bullied for a long time. Lysychansk is now liberated, which means that the crimes of the Ukronazis are finished once and for all. Residents can take a deep breath of the free air of the Luhansk People’s Republic.’

Yuriy Sak, advisor to the defence minister, repeated Zelensky’s plea to the West and said the future of the war depends on the military equipment Ukraine receives.

He told the BBC’s Today programme: ‘It is a setback but it’s a setback that we will turn back in the future, we will recover Lysychansk as well as all other Ukrainian cities

‘It very much depends on how quickly Ukraine will receive all the heavy weaponry we are requesting from our international partners because in the east of Ukraine we are very significantly outnumbered and outgunned.

‘Russians are using tens of thousands of artillery rounds a day to destroy Ukrainian cities so this is why we are relying on the military assistance from our international partners and we hope this will be forthcoming as soon as possible.’

He added: ‘During the negotiations which our minister of defence holds almost on a daily basis with our international partners, we are always reassured that all steps are taken to provide this military assistance as soon as possible.’

A bombed-out car sits alone on a rubble-littered road in Lysychansk, Luhansk region yesterday as Russian forces claimed the city

A bombed-out car sits alone on a rubble-littered road in Lysychansk, Luhansk region yesterday as Russian forces claimed the city

A Russian Ka-52 'Alligator' attack helicopter flies near a heavily damaged building over the weekend amid Russia's capture

A Russian Ka-52 ‘Alligator’ attack helicopter flies near a heavily damaged building over the weekend amid Russia’s capture

A Ukrainian army handout shows a Russia-destroyed residential building in Lysychansk yesterday

A Ukrainian army handout shows a Russia-destroyed residential building in Lysychansk yesterday

The Lysychansk palace of culture is bombed out and battle-scarred after weeks of fighting

The Lysychansk palace of culture is bombed out and battle-scarred after weeks of fighting

The Russians now control about half of Donetsk, the second province of Donbas, and forces are focusing their efforts on pushing toward the line of Siversk, Fedorivka and Bakhmut in the region.

The Ukrainian army said in a statement announcing its retreat from Lysychansk: ‘The continuation of the defence of the city would lead to fatal consequences’ in the face of Russia’s superiority in numbers and equipment.

‘In order to preserve the lives of Ukrainian defenders, a decision was made to withdraw.

‘Unfortunately, steel will and patriotism are not enough for success – material and technical resources are needed.’

The fall of Lysychansk comes after Russian forces seized its twin city of Severodonetsk last week after bouts of intense fighting.

On Sunday, Moscow accused Kyiv of firing three cluster missiles at the Russian city of Belgorod near the Ukrainian border, which came a day after neighbouring Belarus said it had intercepted Ukrainian missiles.

In what would represent an escalation of the conflict, Russia said its anti-aircraft defences shot down three Tochka-U cluster missiles launched by ‘Ukrainian nationalists’ against Belgorod.

Nina Zakharova, 64-years-old librarian, and her son Alexander, 26 years-old, walk nearby a university building targeted by a missile strike in Bakhmut

Nina Zakharova, 64-years-old librarian, and her son Alexander, 26 years-old, walk nearby a university building targeted by a missile strike in Bakhmut

Volunteers from Kyiv City deliver aid supplies to Ukrainian fighters in Sloviansk which has seen an increase in bombardment

Volunteers from Kyiv City deliver aid supplies to Ukrainian fighters in Sloviansk which has seen an increase in bombardment

A hotel is reduced to rubble in Kramatorsk as Ukraine continues to be pounded by Russian artillery

A hotel is reduced to rubble in Kramatorsk as Ukraine continues to be pounded by Russian artillery

Rescue specialists work at the site of a destroyed residential building after the blasts in Belgorod which Russia has blamed on Ukraine

Rescue specialists work at the site of a destroyed residential building after the blasts in Belgorod which Russia has blamed on Ukraine

Eleven residential buildings and 39 houses had been damaged, Belgorod governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said.

Russia has previously accused Kyiv of conducting strikes on Russian soil, particularly in the Belgorod region.

Sak denied Ukraine had deliberately targeted civilians, saying: ‘There was no official statement on the part of the general staff of the armed forces of Ukraine, but it has been very many times repeated by our military and political leadership that unlike the Russian aggressor, Ukrainian armed forces are never targeting civilian targets.

‘This means that this was impossible that it was Ukrainian armed forces who attacked the city

‘The reasons for those explosions could be various. In the past, we have seen that Russian armed forces are creating such provocations themselves

‘We have also seen that sometimes Russian missiles misfire so it is difficult to establish exactly what has happened.’ 

On Saturday, Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko accused Kyiv of provocation and said his army intercepted missiles fired at his country by Ukrainian forces ‘around three days ago’.

Belarus, a Russian ally, supported the February 24 invasion and has been accused by Kyiv of launching its own attacks on Ukrainian territory.

Firefighters walk past sellers collecting some goods from destroyed shops on a local market after a rocket attack in the Ukrainian town of Sloviansk

Firefighters walk past sellers collecting some goods from destroyed shops on a local market after a rocket attack in the Ukrainian town of Sloviansk

Photo shows a building in the Odessa coastal area that had previously been hit by Russian forces

Photo shows a building in the Odessa coastal area that had previously been hit by Russian forces

Local residents look at destroyed shops on a local market after a rocket attack in the Ukrainian town of Sloviansk

Local residents look at destroyed shops on a local market after a rocket attack in the Ukrainian town of Sloviansk

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a shopping mall after it was struck by a missile yesterday

Firefighters work to extinguish a fire at a shopping mall after it was struck by a missile yesterday

Lukashenko denied any involvement in a recent cross-border incident.

‘We do not intend to fight in Ukraine,’ he said, according to state news agency Belta on Saturday.

About 45 miles west of Lysychansk, the city Sloviansk saw heavy Russian shelling which left six people dead – among them a nine-year-old girl, Zelensky said Sunday evening.

About 20 others were wounded as ‘the Russian army once again brutally shelled’ the city, as well as Kramatorsk and Kharkiv.

A strike on the town of Dobropillia – just southwest of Sloviansk – killed two people and wounded three, including two children, Donetsk authorities said.

The city of Siversk, 30 kilometres west of Lysychansk, also saw overnight shelling, residents and an official told AFP.

‘It was intense, and it was shooting from all sides,’ said a woman sheltering in a cellar.

Russian forces ‘have now gathered their largest firepower in Donbas, and they can use tens of thousands of artillery shells every day on one section of the front,’ Zelensky said.

But Ukrainian troops had progressed in Kharkiv and Kherson regions, he added, vowing that ‘there will be a day when we will say the same about Donbas.’

‘We will rebuild the walls, we will win back the land, and people must be protected above all else,’ Zelensky said. ‘Ukraine does not give anything up.’

A Ukrainian official said Sunday that Kyiv’s forces had seen another success in Melitopol where they had ‘put out of action’ a Russian military base, while the army said the air force had destroyed around 20 Russian units and two ammunition depots.

‘The town of Melitopol is covered in smoke,’ said the city’s exiled mayor Ivan Fedorov.

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