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SLOVIANSK: President Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered Russian troops to press their offensive deeper into the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine after Moscow’s forces seized the strategic city of Lysychansk.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu told Putin at a meeting that Moscow’s forces were now in full control of the Lugansk region.

In a sign there would be no let-up in the fighting and that Russia now had its eyes on the entire Donetsk region, Putin told Shoigu that troops stationed there must continue their operations.

“Military units, including the East group and the West group, must carry out their tasks according to previously approved plans,” Putin said.

“I hope that everything will continue in their direction as has happened in Lugansk so far.”

The Ukrainian army said on Sunday it was retreating from Lysychansk to preserve the lives of its troops who were outnumbered and outgunned by Russian forces.

With the war now well into its fifth month, Ukraine told a reconstruction conference in Switzerland on Monday that it would already cost $750 billion to rebuild the country.

“The key source of recovery should be the confiscated assets of Russia and Russian oligarchs,” Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal told leaders of dozens of countries in Lugano. In a video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described rebuilding Ukraine as the “common task of the whole democratic world” and the “biggest contribution to the support of global peace.”

The loss of Lysychansk over the weekend prompted Zelensky to step up calls for an increased supply of weapons from the West so Kyiv can keep up the resistance and regain lost territories.

After giving up on its initial war aim of capturing Kyiv following tough Ukrainian resistance, Russia has focused its efforts on securing control of the Donetsk and Lugansk areas which make up the Donbas region.

Moscow’s capture of Lysychansk — one week after the Ukrainian army also retreated from the neighbouring city of Severodonetsk — frees up Russian forces to advance on Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in Donetsk.

Lugansk region governor Sergiy Gayday said on Telegram that there was still fighting in the town of Bilogorivka outside Lysychansk.

“We keep defending a small part of the Lugansk region so that our army could build protective redoubts,” he added.

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