03 Jul 2022, 10:48

Battle rages for Ukraine city, Belarus says downed missiles

SLOVIANSK, Ukraine, July 3, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Fighting raged for the strategic

Ukrainian city Lysychansk on Saturday, as Belarusian leader Alexander
Lukashenko said his army had intercepted missiles fired on his territory by
Kyiv's forces.

Ukraine denied claims by Moscow-backed separatists who said they had
encircled Lysychansk, the last major city in the Lugansk area of the eastern
Donbas region still in Kyiv's hands.

Lysychansk is located across the river from neighbouring Severodonetsk, which
Russian forces seized last week.

The city's capture would allow Russian forces to push deeper into the Donbas,
which has become the focus of their offensive since failing to capture Kyiv.

"Fighting rages around Lysychansk... The city has not been encircled and is
under control of the Ukrainian army," Ruslan Muzytchuk, a spokesman for the
Ukrainian National Guard, said on Ukrainian television.

Earlier in the day, Andrei Marochko, a spokesman for the separatist forces,
told the TASS news agency: "Lysychansk is completely encircled."

Lukashenko on Saturday accused Ukraine of "provoking" neighbouring Belarus,
saying his army intercepted missiles fired at his country by Ukrainian forces
"around three days ago".

The claim came one week after Ukraine said missiles struck a border region
from Belarus, a long-term Russian ally that supported the February 24

But Lukashenko denied any involvement, which would represent an escalation of
the conflict.
"As I said more than a year ago, we do not intend to fight in Ukraine," he
was quoted as saying by state news agency Belta on Saturday.

- 'Heavy losses' -

Missiles continue to rain down across Ukraine, killing dozens.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky cited six strikes as of the evening in
his daily address to the nation late Saturday.

"Fierce fighting continues along the entire front line, in Donbas," he added,
noting as well that "enemy activity in the Kharkiv region is intensifying".

In the small Donetsk town of Siversk, one resident told AFP that "the bombing
goes on day and night."

Rockets also struck residential properties in Sloviansk in the heart of the
Donbas, killing a woman in her garden and wounding her husband, a neighbour
told AFP Saturday, describing debris showered across the neighbourhood.

The witness said the strike, which took place on Friday, was thought to use
cluster munitions, which spread over a large area before exploding, striking
buildings and people who were outdoors.

Zelensky warned against "a feeling of relaxation" in many rear cities.

"The war is not over," he said. "Unfortunately, its cruelty is only
increasing in some places, and it cannot be forgotten."

Russian defence ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Ukraine was
"suffering heavy losses on all fronts", listing what he said were military
targets across the country hit with artillery and missiles.

- 'Rebuilt from scratch' -

In his address, Zelensky also looked forward to a conference on Ukraine's
reconstruction set to start Monday in Switzerland.

Leaders from dozens of countries and international organisations will gather
in the city of Lugano with the aim of providing a roadmap for the war-ravaged
country's recovery.

Rebuilding Ukraine "requires colossal investments -- billions, new
technologies, best practices, new institutions and, of course, reforms,"
Zelensky said.

He said 10 regions of Ukraine had been affected in the war, with many towns
and villages needing to be "rebuilt from scratch".

The roadmap is expected to lay out reconstruction needs in terms of damaged
and destroyed infrastructure, Ukraine's devastated economy, and also
environmental and social recovery needs.

The effort is expected to cost hundreds of billions of dollars.

Ukraine will also face demands for broad reforms, especially in cracking down
on corruption.

The need for reforms had been underscored by European Commission, Ursula von
der Leyen, who has said the coveted European Union membership was "within
reach" for Ukraine, but urged Kyiv to work on anti-corruption measures.

In peacetime, Ukraine is a major agricultural exporter, but Russia's invasion
has damaged farmland and seen Ukraine's ports seized, razed or blockaded --
sparking concerns about food shortages, particularly in poor countries.

Farmer Sergiy Lioubarsky, whose fields are close to the frontline, warned
time was running out to harvest this year's crop.

"We can wait until August 10 at the latest, but after that, the grains are
going to dry out and fall to the ground," he said.

Western powers have accused Putin of using the trapped harvest as a weapon to
increase pressure on the international community, and Russia has been accused
of stealing grain.



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