Controlling the city would give the Russian military a foothold

Russia asserted Saturday that its troops and separatist fighters had captured a key railway junction in eastern Ukraine, the second small city to fall to Moscow’s forces this week as they fought to seize all of the country’s contested Donbas region.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said the city of Lyman had been “completely liberated” by a joint force of Russian soldiers and the Kremlin-backed separatists, who have waged war in the eastern region bordering Russia for eight years.

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Lyman, which had a population of about 20,000 before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, serves as a regional railway hub. Ukraine’s train system has ferried arms and evacuated citizens during the war, and it wasn’t immediately clear how the development might affect either capability.

Controlling the city would give the Russian military a foothold for advancing on larger Ukrainian-held cities in Donetsk and Luhansk, the two provinces that make up the Donbas. Since failing to occupy Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, Russia has concentrated on seizing the last parts of the region not controlled by the separatists.

Fighting continued Saturday around Severodonetsk and nearby Lysychansk, twin cites that are the last major areas under Ukrainian control in Luhansk province. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reiterated that the situation in the east was “difficult” but expressed confidence his country would prevail.

“If the occupiers think that Lyman or Severodonetsk will be theirs, they are wrong. Donbas will be Ukrainian,” he said.

On Tuesday, Russian troops took over Svitlodarsk, a small municipality south of Severodonetsk that hosts a thermal power station, while intensifying efforts to encircle and capture the larger city. The governor of Luhansk warned that Ukrainian soldiers might have to retreat from Severodonetsk to avoid being surrounded.

The advance of Russian forces raised fears that residents would experience the same horrors as people in the southeastern port city Mariupol in the weeks before it fell.

Severodonetsk’s mayor, Oleksandr Striuk, said Friday that some 1,500 civilians have died there during the war, including from a lack of medicine or because of diseases that could not be treated while the city was under siege.

Before the war, Severodonetsk was home to around 100,000 people. About 12,000 to 13,000 remain in the city, where 90% of the buildings are damaged, the mayor told the Associated Press. Ukraine’s police force said Saturday afternoon that the city is “under constant enemy fire” and civilians were wounded, but did not specify the number.

Just south of Severodonetsk, volunteers worked to evacuate people Friday amid a threatening soundtrack of air-raid sirens and booming artillery. AP reporters saw elderly and ill civilians bundled into soft stretchers and slowly carried down apartment building stairs in Bakhmut, a city in northeast Donetsk province.

Svetlana Lvova, the manager of two buildings in Bakhmut, tried to convince reluctant residents to leave but said she and her husband would not evacuate until their son, who was in Severodonetsk, returned home.

The photos, released Friday, were taken by Pete Luna, general manager of the Uvalde Leader-News newspaper in the town of 16,000 people.

The images show students being helped out of windows, police officers with guns drawn and the shooter’s truck crashed near the school.

Each week since its May 10 launch, “Father Wants Us Dead” has been reaching more and more listeners around the globe, telling the unbelievable story of John List, the family-killer whose crimes have haunted New Jersey for 50 years.

This past week, the true crime podcast by NJ Advance Media peaked at No. 6 on the Apple Podcasts U.S. chart, attracting more than 300,000 downloads of the first five episodes. The sixth episode comes out Tuesday, detailing law enforcement’s final push to catch List after 17 years on the lam.

The serial podcast takes listeners deep into the story of List, who grew up in a strict, pious home and endeavored to create the same square life for his family: his wife Helen, 46, and children Patty, 16, John, 15, and Freddy, 13. But while List seemed like a stiff but successful accountant with a nice mansion on Westfield’s posh north side, in reality he was crumbling under self-imposed pressures.

He carefully plotted and executed the murders of his wife and children, as well as his mother, Alma, 84, who lived with them. In his confession letter, detailed in episode 4, he explained he had to do it because of an impending bankruptcy and his concerns about his family’s souls.

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