As one battle in Ukraine was ending — with Russia taking the key eastern city of Lysychansk on Sunday — another was already underway.
Russia’s capture of Lysychansk gives it effective control of Luhansk, the first province to fall to Russia since it took over Crimea. That allows it to refocus on neighboring Donetsk, the other province in the Donbas, the mineral-rich region bordering Russia that has long been in President Vladimir V. Putin’s sights.
In an early indication of the violence likely to sweep down on Donetsk in the coming weeks, Russian forces killed nine civilians in the province over the last 24 hours, the head of the regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko, said on Monday in a post on the Telegram messaging app.
Russian forces have increased their shelling of population centers along the front lines in recent days. Controlling Lysychansk and its sister city of Sievierodonetsk, which fell on June 24 after weeks of fierce fighting, gives them a base to regroup and mount offensives on cities to the southwest, notably Sloviansk, Kramatorsk and Bakhmut, an industrial city that was a supply hub for Ukrainian forces ferrying equipment and personnel northeast to Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk.
On Sunday, at least six people were killed in Sloviansk and more than a dozen were injured by Russian rockets, Ukrainian authorities said. In a Facebook post, Vadym Lyakh, the mayor of Sloviansk, said it was the city’s most severe shelling since the Russian invasion on Feb. 24.
“Today, the Russian army once again brutally shelled” Sloviansk and the nearby city of Kramatorsk with rocket launchers, President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine said in his nightly address.
Ukraine would defend itself with long-range rocket launchers arriving from the United States, but the Russians, he said, “have now accumulated their largest firepower in Donbas. And they can use tens of thousands of artillery shells every day on one section of the front.”
Mr. Zelensky said Ukraine would keep up its fight and take back Lysychansk, promising, “We will return, thanks to our tactics, thanks to the increase in the supply of modern weapons.”
Russia has dispatched thousands of additional soldiers to Ukraine’s east in recent weeks to reinforce its offensive into Donetsk province, where it will once again likely try to overwhelm heavily fortified Ukrainian positions with its large arsenal of artillery, missiles and air power, even if its ground forces are diminished. Russia-backed separatists seized control of parts of Luhansk and Donetsk in 2014, and Mr. Putin initially justified the Russian invasion as an attempt to preserve the independence of the two breakaway territories.
Russia’s advances have intensified the pressure on the United States and its allies to get more powerful weapons to the front, where Ukraine is outnumbered and outgunned.
The first of the truck-mounted multiple rocket launchers sent by the United States are making an impact in their first several days on the battlefield, destroying Russian ammunition depots and command centers, American and Ukrainian officials say. The High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems or HIMARS, have satellite-guided rockets with a range of more than 40 miles, longer than anything Ukraine previously had.
On Friday, the Pentagon announced a new package of $820 million in military aid to Ukraine, including two air-defense missile systems, 150,000 rounds of artillery ammunition, and more rockets for the HIMARS.