Pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine said that street battles are taking place in the city of Lysichansk, adjacent to the city of Severodonetsk, which Moscow seized control of on Saturday after the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces, while the Group of Seven, at its summit in Germany today, is expected to impose additional sanctions on Russia over the Ukraine war.

And the pro-Russian separatist Luhansk forces announced that Russian forces had stormed Lyschansk, which is separated only by a river from Severodonetsk, and engaged in street battles with Ukrainian forces.

Al-Jazeera correspondent in Ukraine said that the battles and the exchange of shelling between the Ukrainian and Russian forces continue in the vicinity of Lyschansk, and on the road between Bakhmut and Lysechansk.

The governor of Lugansk Province, Sergey Gaidai, stated that the Ukrainian forces repelled the continuing Russian attack on Lyschansk from the southern axis.

The head of Ukraine's military intelligence, Kirilo Budanov, told Reuters that his country is carrying out a "tactical operation to reorganize the ranks by withdrawing its forces from Severodonetsk to higher areas in Lyschansk, on the opposite bank of the Seversky Donets River."

transformed by battle

The fall of Severodonetsk, which once had a population of over 100,000 but is now a ghost town, is Russia's biggest victory since its takeover of the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol last month, and marks a shift in the battlefield on the Donbass fronts.

Russia now hopes to maintain pressure and seize more territory on the opposite bank of the Seversky Donets River, while Ukraine hopes that the price Moscow paid for capturing the devastated city will make Russian forces vulnerable to a counterattack in the coming weeks.

After the announcement on Saturday of the fall of Severodonetsk to the Russian forces, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a video speech that his country would recover all the cities that Russia had occupied, including Severodonetsk in the Donbass region.

On the southern fighting fronts, the Ukrainian army said that the Mykolaiv region was hit by 9 missiles launched from the Crimea on Saturday.

The Ukrainian army did not provide any details about the target locations and the nature of the losses.

Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry said in a statement yesterday, Saturday, that its strikes had killed "more than 300 Ukrainian soldiers and foreign mercenaries, and destroyed 35 heavy weapons during one day in Mykolaiv."

Also in the southern Zaporozhye region, the Ukrainian Southern Operations Command said that its forces carried out an ambush, which it described as successful, targeting Russian forces in the region, killing 300 Russian soldiers.

Ukrainian soldiers in a trench hit a Russian vehicle with an RPG-7, reportedly in the south.

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Neighboring Belarus

On the other hand, Ukraine accused Russia of trying to drag Belarus into the ongoing war in Ukraine, after 20 Russian missiles were launched on Saturday towards targets in northern and western Ukraine.

Russian missiles targeted the Chernihiv border district between Ukraine and Belarus, and the authorities of the Zhytomyr district in central Ukraine said that some of these Russian missiles hit military facilities in the vicinity of Zhytomyr, killing at least one soldier.

The Ukrainian Defense Ministry said that the Russian missile attack launched from Belarus "is directly related to the efforts made by the Kremlin to drag Belarus to participate in the war on Ukraine."

In a related context, Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Saturday that his country will deliver to Belarus within the months of the Iskander-M missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads.

This came during his meeting with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in St. Petersburg, Russia. Lukashenko described Lithuania's isolation of the Russian province of Kaliningrad as a declaration of war.

Kaliningrad is a Russian enclave separated from the rest of Russia, and it is surrounded to the north and east by Lithuania and from the south by Poland.

Lukashenko asked Putin on Saturday to help his country deliver a "proportionate response" to what he said were nuclear-armed flights by the US-led North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) near the Belarus border.

Lukashenko asked for Putin's help in responding to NATO nuclear overflights near the Belarus border (Reuters)

The Russian president said he did not see the need for a proportionate response at the moment, but that Belarus' Su-25s, which are made in Russia, could be upgraded at Russian factories if necessary.

top of the seven

On the other hand, an informed source told Reuters that US President Joe Biden and his counterparts in the Group of Seven will agree today during the summit to be held in Germany to ban the import of new gold from Russia, and the summit will last for 3 days.

According to the same source, the US Treasury (Finance) will issue a decision to ban the import of new gold to the United States on Tuesday, in a move aimed at further isolating Russia from the global economy by preventing its participation in the gold market.

Russia produces about 10% of the gold mined worldwide each year.

A German government official also said on Saturday that the leaders of the Group of Seven (the United States, France, Britain, Germany, Italy, Canada and Japan) were holding "very constructive" talks on the possibility of capping oil imports from Russia.

The proposal is part of broader G7 discussions on how to increase pressure on the Kremlin over the war in Ukraine.

The United States, Canada and Britain have already banned imports of Russian oil, while European Union leaders have agreed on a ban that will take full effect by the end of 2022 as part of sanctions against Moscow.

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