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Luhansk could be 'even worse' than Mariupol as Russia attacks increase, says governor

The situation in Luhansk will be the same or “even worse” than in places such as Mariupol and Bucha, the region’s governor has said.

Russia has withdrawn troops from around Kyiv after failing to penetrate the city and is said to be focusing on the east, where it has long supported separatist fighters.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai told Sky News he feared a fresh offensive in “approximately a few days” and urged people to evacuate while they still can, in case escape routes are cut off.

He said the situation will become as bad as in Mariupol – the besieged southern city where thousands are left sheltering in basements without food, water or power.

Servicemen of pro-Russian militia hoist flags of Russia and the separatist self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic (LNR) outside the Oschad bank branch in Stanytsia Luhanska in the Luhansk region, Ukraine February 27, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
Pro-Russian militia hoist flags in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic in Stanytsia Luhanska on 27 February

“The thing is that some people actually don’t want to leave but they should see what the Russians did with Mariupol, Bucha, Irpin,” Mr Haidai told Sky News.

“The situation will be the same here, maybe even worse. This is why there should be no delays. Please, use our offer, evacuate to preserve life.”

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Ukrainian forces have been battling Russian-backed fighters in the Donbas – which includes the Luhansk region – since 2014 and President Putin recognised two separatist-held regions just before he launched the invasion.

Russian troops now control 70% of Luhansk, said Mr Haidai, and are already using tanks, artillery, bombs and missiles on areas still held by Ukraine.

He said he expected the ferocity of attacks to increase.

“We observe the concentration of troops. I think that they will go on an offensive in approximately a few days,” he said.

“Before that, however, they will conduct a large-scale shelling with missiles and artillery from the region’s territory held by them.”

A woman before and after she was rescued in the town of Rubizhne in the Luhansk region

The Luhansk governor told Sky News that Russian troops were “not concerned about people’s lives” and would “destroy everything that stands in their way”.

“We have many such examples when they shell schools, kindergartens. We don’t have a single hospital left that has not been shelled,” he said.

Mr Haidai said more weapons were urgently needed but that Ukrainian forces were still having success against the Russians.

“We need three things: modern antitank weapons, modern anti-aircraft weapons, and modern long-range artillery systems. We really do not have enough of these things,” said the governor.

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‘Inhumane’: Bucha residents recount horror

“But we will not meet the enemy empty-handed… I can say that there have been many recent examples when we repel all the attacks, destroy tanks, destroy enemy convoys, and the Russian army loses dozens of its troops in each attack.”

Pictures from Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv, have revealed bodies of civilians apparently shot dead with their hands bound and locals reporting other apparent war crimes.

Key developments:
• Evacuations through 11 humanitarian corridors to be attempted today, says Ukraine deputy PM
• Mariupol’s humanitarian situation worsening, says UK Ministry of Defence
• Ukraine’s president tells Irish parliament Russia using hunger as ‘weapon’
• France’s president agrees to give technical support for investigation into alleged war crimes

There are fears such atrocities could be repeated and the urgency to get people to safety is increasing.

Sky's Mark Austin will interview Putin's press secretary Dmitry Peskov
Sky’s Mark Austin will interview Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov

The governor said they were evacuating more than 1,000 people per day and called on Luhansk civilians “to evacuate either using their own transport or accept our offer”.

Eleven humanitarian corridors will be attempted from Ukrainian cities on Wednesday, according to Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk.


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