Russia claimed on Tuesday that it occupied a large area of ‚Äč‚Äčeastern Ukraine after relentless weeks of barrage and recent deployments of more troops.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow troops had “liberated” 97% of the Luhansk region.

Russia seems determined to occupy the entire eastern part of Ukraine’s Donbus, which consists of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. That goal seems to be the most pressing ambition in Ukraine.

However, while the Kremlin’s troops have excellent firepower, Ukrainian defenders, the most well-trained troops in the country, are well-established and show the ability to fight back.

Shoigu claimed that Russian troops were fighting to occupy a residential area in Sieviero Donetsk and control the industrial areas of the surrounding and neighboring towns.

Sieviero Donetsk, the administrative center of the Luhansk region, has recently been the focus of Russian attacks.

Citizen militia has a shotgun during training at a shooting range on the outskirts of Kieu, Ukraine (Natacha Pisarenko / AP)

Sievierodonetsk and nearby Lysychansk are the only two Donbus cities that are resisting the Russian invasion backed by local pro-Kremlin troops.

Shoigu added that Russian troops are attacking the town of Popasna and said they control Lyman and Subiathhilsk, as well as 15 other towns in the region.

Popasna is a pre-war town with a population of 20,000, located about 20 miles south of Severodonetsk.

Ukrainian officials said Tuesday that Moscow was deploying military reinforcements in eastern Ukraine as a Russian bombardment aimed at crushing Ukraine’s defenses.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai admitted that Russian troops control the industrial suburbs of Sieviero Donetsk, one of the two cities in the Luhansk region, still in the hands of Ukraine.

“The toughest street battles are going on and the success levels vary,” Haidai told The Associated Press. “The situation is constantly changing, but the Ukrainians are repelling the attack.”

Azovstal Ironworks (AP) damaged during battle

However, since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Moscow’s strategy has suffered many setbacks. This includes the failure of attempts to seize the capital, Kyiv.

Moscow troops also continued to bombard Lysychans’k, a city near Sieviero Donetsk, which is almost completely controlled by Russian troops.

Heidai said Russian troops bombarded local markets, schools and university buildings and destroyed the latter. He said the three injured were sent to hospitals in other parts of Ukraine.

“The complete destruction of the city is underway and Russian artillery has intensified significantly in the last 24 hours. Russians are using scorched earth operations,” Haidai said.

According to Haidai, Ukrainian troops have repelled 10 Russian attacks in the last 24 hours. His report could not be independently verified.

Ukraine is receiving weapons and ammunition from the West to help fend off a relentless Russian attack. Its support has been targeted by Russian artillery and military aircraft.

Russia claimed on Tuesday that its troops had taken out two artillery systems given by the United States and howitzers supplied by Norway.

Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Russian artillery destroyed other Ukrainian equipment east of the country while the Russian Air Force was attacking the Ukrainian army and equipment concentration and artillery positions.

Major Konashenkov’s allegations could not be confirmed independently.

Meanwhile, in Kieu, autopsy of dozens of Ukrainian fighters killed at the Azovstal ironworks was planned.

The body was returned to Ukraine by a Russian occupier of a destroyed plant like the fortress of the city of Mariupol. There, their last ditch stand became a symbol of resistance to the invasion of Moscow.

The Azov Regiment was one of the Ukrainian units that defended the steelworks for almost three months before surrendering in May under a relentless Russian attack from the ground, sea and air.

It was unknown how many bodies remained in the factory.

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