The head of the Donetsk regional military administration on July 5 urged the last remaining civilians to evacuate the eastern Ukrainian region as Russia escalated its offensive, hitting several cities and towns in the region and elsewhere in the country.
More than 350,000 residents remain in Donetsk, and Pavlo Kyrylenko said getting them out is necessary to save lives and enable the Ukrainian army to defend against the Russian advance.
“The destiny of the whole country will be decided by the Donetsk region,” Kyrylenko told reporters in Kramatorsk, the administrative center of Donetsk. “Once there are fewer people, we will be able to concentrate more on our enemy and perform our main tasks.”
Ukraine’s railway system said more passenger wagons were being added to trains leaving Pokrovsk, a city northwest of the regional capital, to step up departures.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address that air alerts were issued late on July 5 in nearly all parts of the country, including places that had experienced relative calm in recent weeks.
“The Russian army does not take any breaks. It has one task — to take people’s lives, to intimidate people — so that even a few days without an air alarm already feel like part of the terror,” he said.
Russia’s main targets are now Kramatorsk and Slovyansk, Kyrylenko said, describing the shelling as “very chaotic” without “a specific target…only to destroy civilian infrastructure and residential areas.”
Slovyansk came under sustained bombardment on July 5, Mayor Vadym Lyakh said on Facebook. He initially urged people to evacuate but then said residents who remained should take cover in shelters.
Kyrylenko said earlier that at least two people were killed and seven wounded as a result of the shelling of Slovyansk on July 5. Kyrylenko posted a video on social media showing smoke rising from a commercial area and photos of firefighters dousing flames. The claims could not be independently verified.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on July 5 that the war in Ukraine would continue until all the goals set by Russian President Vladimir Putin are achieved. However, Shoigu said the main priorities for Moscow are “preserving the lives and health” of the troops, and “excluding the threat to the security of civilians.”
Ukrainian forces early on July 5 took up new defensive lines in Donetsk, where they still control major cities, after withdrawing from Lysychansk.
The withdrawal prompted Russia to claim full control of the eastern Luhansk region, although Zelenskiy vowed to regain the lost ground.
Putin on July 4 declared that Russian forces should continue to advance throughout the Donetsk region “as has happened in Luhansk.”
An intelligence report from the British Defense Ministry on July 5 said the battle for the Donbas “has been characterized by slow rates of advance” and Russia’s heavy use of artillery, leveling towns and cities in the process.
“The fighting in Donetsk Oblast will almost certainly continue in this manner,” the intelligence report said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke by phone with Zelenskiy on July 5, telling him he believes Ukraine can retake territory recently captured by Russia.
Johnson reiterated Britain’s commitment to helping Kyiv defend itself and rebuild, and Zelenskiy thanked him for a further 100 million pounds ($119 million) in support.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said the prime minister also updated Zelenskiy on the latest U.K. military equipment, including 10 self-propelled artillery systems, which would be arriving in the coming days and weeks.
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British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on July 5 that the first group of Ukrainian soldiers had recently arrived in Britain as part of a program to train up to 10,000 new Ukrainian recruits.
Wallace said the weekslong courses, based on Britain’s basic soldier training, includes weapons training, battlefield first aid, patrol tactics, and training on the law of armed conflict.
Zelenskiy said earlier Kyiv’s armed forces were undeterred in their efforts to “break” Moscow’s will to pursue the war against his country hours after Putin ordered his military to continue its offensive.
Zelenskiy said in his nightly video message on July 4 that despite Ukraine’s withdrawal from Lysychansk, which enabled Russia to claim full control of the eastern Luhansk region, its troops continued to fight.
“We need to break them,” he said. “It is a difficult task. It requires time and superhuman efforts. But we have no alternative.”
Ukraine’s military said it withdrew from the bombed-out city of Lysychansk late on July 3 to save the lives of its soldiers, while Zelenskiy vowed to retake the city “thanks to the increase in the supply of modern weapons.”
“This is the last victory for Russia on Ukrainian territory,” Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelenskiy, said in a video posted online.
Arestovych said that besides the battle for Donetsk, Ukraine was hoping to launch counteroffensives in the south of the country.
“Taking the cities in the east meant that 60 percent of Russian forces are now concentrated in the east and it is difficult for them to be redirected to the south,” he said.
“And there are no more forces that can be brought in from Russia. They paid a big price for Syevyerodonetsk and Lysychansk,” he said.
Early on July 5, Russian rockets hit the southern city of Mykolayiv, on the main highway between Kherson and Odesa, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said.