The situation in eastern Ukraine is “very, very difficult,” says Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. The town of Lyman located there was taken by Russian troops. And the Luhansk governor does not rule out the withdrawal of troops from some areas.

The Russian war of aggression in Ukraine has been raging for more than 90 days. Its President Volodymyr Zelenskyj described the situation in the embattled Donbass as “very, very difficult”. The Russian army is using a maximum of artillery and reserves in the area in eastern Ukraine, Zelensky said in his daily video address on Friday evening. There are rocket and air strikes – “everything”.

The Ukrainian army is defending the country with all of its “current defense resources,” Zelenskyy said. “We’re doing everything we can to strengthen them.”

Russia has shifted its troops to the east from central and northern Ukraine, where it has been unable to capture the cities of Kyiv and Kharkiv. Since then, Russian soldiers have been slowly but steadily penetrating deeper into the Donbass.

Ukraine: Lyman captured, Severodonetsk and Lysychansk besieged

The Russian military confirmed on Saturday that it had taken the strategically important town of Lyman in eastern Ukraine. According to a statement by the Russian Defense Ministry in Moscow, “units of the militia of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Russian armed forces” “freed” Lyman in a joint operation.

The day before, the pro-Russian separatists had announced that they would capture Lyman, a key railroad junction northeast of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. The capture of Lyman would allow a Russian advance on the two cities still under Ukrainian control.

Strategically important cities such as Severodonetsk and Lysychansk are also besieged by the Russian army. The Russian news agency Ria Novosti quoted a pro-Russian police official as saying that Severodonetsk was “now surrounded”. Ukrainian soldiers could no longer leave the city. This was denied by Oleksandr Stryuk, a senior city official. However, he admitted that the situation was “very difficult”.

Russia closes border in Kherson for refugees

According to the Kyiv-appointed governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Gajday, Russian troops will not be able to take over the entire region in a short time. However, the Ukrainian defenders may have to withdraw from some areas in order not to be encircled. To prevent this, “there might even be an order for our troops to retreat,” Gajdaj explained on Telegram.

The Cherson region in southern Ukraine, occupied by Russian troops, has also closed the border to the north for refugees. “The border crossing in the direction of the Mykolayiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions is very dangerous given the systematic shelling by Ukrainian fighters,” said the deputy chief of the pro-Russian military administration, Kirill Stremoussov, explaining the decision. Departures from the Cherson region are instead possible via the Crimean peninsula or the Russian-controlled part of the Zaporizhia region.

The new administration has taken numerous initiatives to cut off the Kherson region from Ukraine and connect it to Russia. The Russian national currency, the ruble, was introduced, the administration has demanded the issuance of Russian passports and the entry of the region into the Russian Federation – even without a prior referendum. Even Moscow reacted cautiously to the last initiative. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the people of the region must decide their own fate.

The closure of the borders could serve to stop the flow of refugees into Ukrainian-occupied areas. According to estimates by the Ukrainian regional administration, the city of Kherson has lost around half of its population since it was occupied. A fifth of the population had fled the region of the same name, the Ukrainian regional administration said in early May.