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Russia-Ukraine war: fears grow for civilians in Sloviansk; Finland and Sweden edge closer to joining Nato – live

Sloviansk mayor urges residents to flee city

The mayor of Sloviansk has called on its remaining residents to evacuate as the Russian invaders stepped up their shelling of the frontline Ukrainian city following the capture of Lysychansk on Sunday, Dan Sabbagh and Lorenzo Tondo report.

Vadim Lyakh said 40 houses had been shelled on Monday, a day after six people were killed and 20 injured in missile attacks aimed at one of the main population centres in the Donbas still outside Russian control.

“It’s important to evacuate as many people as possible,” Lyakh said in an interview with Reuters, noting that 144 people had been evacuated on Tuesday, including 20 children, from a city now deemed at risk from Russian bombardment.

A resident walks among debris next to a destroyed house in Sloviansk on 4 July.
A resident walks among debris next to a destroyed house in Sloviansk on 4 July. Photograph: Genya Savilov/AFP/Getty Images

Russia had concentrated its forces to capture the cities of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk between May and July, the last two cities in Luhansk province it did not control, through an unrelenting and often untargeted artillery barrage.

Ukraine said on Monday it had retreated from Lysychansk, prompting speculation that Russia would now focus on Sloviansk and Kramatorsk to the south, the two main cities in Donetsk held by Kyiv. The provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk make up Ukraine’s industrial Donbas region.

Sloviansk had a population of 107,000 and Kramatorsk 210,000 before the war. Despite the threat of a Russian attack, thousands had remained, reluctant to abandon their homes despite being just a few miles from the frontlines.

It is unclear if Moscow will immediately attempt to seize Sloviansk. The Russian president, Vladimir Putin, said on Monday that Russian troops who fought in Luhansk needed to “take some rest and beef up their combat capability”.

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