The head of the Donetsk regional military administration on July 5 urged the last remaining civilians to evacuate the region in eastern Ukraine as Russia stepped up its offensive, hitting several towns and villages in the region and elsewhere in the country.
More than 350,000 residents remain in Donetsk, and Pavlo Kyrylenko said getting them out was necessary to save lives and allow the Ukrainian army to defend itself against the Russian advance.
“The fate 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 can focus more on our enemy and accomplish our main tasks.”
The Ukrainian railway system declared more passenger wagons were added to trains leaving Pokrovsk, a city northwest of the regional capital, to speed up departures.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his overnight video address that air alerts were issued late July 5 in almost 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 a task – to take people’s lives, to intimidate people – so even a few days without an air alarm already seem like part of the terror,” he said.
Russia’s main targets now are Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, Kyrylenko said, describing the shelling as “very chaotic” with “no specific objective…only to destroy civilian infrastructure and residential areas.”
Sloviansk came under sustained bombardment on July 5, Mayor Vadym Lyakh said on facebook. He first urged people to evacuate, but then said residents who remained should take shelter in shelters.
Kyrylenko said earlier that at least two people were killed and seven injured following the shelling of Sloviansk on July 5. Kyrylenko posted a video on social media showing smoke rising from a commercial area and photos of firefighters extinguishing the 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 were achieved. However, Shoigu said Moscow’s main priorities were to “preserve the life and health” of the troops and “to exclude the threat to the safety of civilians”.
At the beginning of July 5, Ukrainian forces took new defensive lines in Donetsk, where they still control the main towns, after withdrawing from Lysychansk.
The withdrawal prompted Russia to claim full control of the eastern Luhansk region, although Zelenskiy vowed to regain lost ground.
Putin said on July 4 that Russian forces must continue to advance throughout the Donetsk region “as happened in Luhansk.”
an intelligence report of the British Ministry of Defence, on July 5, said that the battle for Donbass “has been characterized by slow rates of advance” and the heavy use of artillery by Russia, razing towns and cities in the process.
“Fighting in Donetsk Oblast will almost certainly continue in this way,” the intelligence report said.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke by phone with Zelenskiy on July 5, telling him he believed Ukraine could retake territory recently captured by Russia.
Johnson reiterated Britain’s commitment to helping Kyiv defend and rebuild, and Zelenskiy thanked him for additional support of 100 million pounds ($119 million).
A Downing Street spokeswoman said the Prime Minister had also briefed Zelenskiy on the latest British military equipment, including 10 self-propelled artillery systems, which would arrive 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 week-long courses, based on basic training for British soldiers, include weapons training, battlefield first aid, patrol tactics and training in the law of armed conflict.
Zelenskiy said earlier that Kyiv’s armed forces were undeterred in their efforts to “break” Moscow’s will to continue the war against his country hours after Putin ordered his army to continue its offensive.
Zelenskiy said in his July 4 night video message that despite Ukraine’s withdrawal from Lysychansk, which allowed Russia to claim full control of the eastern Luhansk region, his troops continued to fight.
“We have to break them,” he said. “It is a difficult task. It requires superhuman time and effort. But we have no alternative.”
The Ukrainian army said it withdrew from the bombed town of Lysychansk late on July 3 to save the lives of its soldiers, while Zelenskiy vowed to retake the town “thanks to the increased supply in modern weapons.
“This is Russia’s last victory on Ukrainian territory,” Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelenskiy, said in a video posted online.
Arestovych said that besides the Battle of Donetsk, Ukraine hopes to launch counter-offensives in the south of the country.
“Taking the cities to the east means that 60% 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 town of Mykolaiv, on the main road between Kherson and Odessa, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevych said.