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Russia likely to seize control of eastern Ukrainian region within weeks, U.S. official says

A Russian soldier guards a road in the Luhansk region of Ukraine on Saturday. (Sergei Ilnitsky/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

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As fighting continues in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, causing heavy casualties and leaving Ukrainian forces with dwindling ammunition, a senior U.S. defense official said Russia is likely to seize control of the entire region within a few weeks.

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The cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, in Luhansk, are increasingly under duress and could fall to Russia within a week, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

Ukrainian officials said Russia is bombarding a chemical plant sheltering hundreds of soldiers and civilians in Severodonetsk, a strategic city that is mostly under Russian control after weeks of intense battles. Russia “will throw all their reserves in order to capture the city” within a day or two to take control of the Lysychansk-Bakhmut highway, a vital supply route, predicted Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region.

Here’s what else to know

  • McDonald’s in Moscow is no longer McDonald’s. It’s “Vkusno i Tochka,” which translates as “Tasty and that’s it.”
  • NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Sunday that the alliance remains hopeful about progress on the membership applications of Finland and Sweden, despite opposition from Turkey.
  • China’s defense minister appeared to play down his country’s support of Moscow and said it has not supplied weapons to Russia for its war on Ukraine.
  • Local authorities in western Ukraine said 22 people were injured in a missile strike Saturday evening near Chortkiv. Russia claimed it targeted a warehouse containing missiles.
  • The Washington Post has lifted its paywall for readers in Russia and Ukraine. Telegram users can subscribe to our channel.
8:04 p.m.
Headshot of Reis Thebault
West Coast Correspondent
International monitors have reestablished data transmission with the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest such facility in Europe, which has been under Russian control since the early weeks of the war, the U.N. nuclear watchdog said Sunday. The announcement means the International Atomic Energy Agency can remotely track safety information from the site for the first time in two weeks — “an important and positive step,” the IAEA said.Russian forces have refused to give the agency’s inspectors regular access to the site. “If I am not able to dispatch inspectors to perform the required verification at ZNPP, implementation of safeguards in Ukraine will be compromised,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement. Ukrainian staffers have continued to operate the plant, but a lack of international oversight has alarmed experts, who say catastrophe could be one accident away.
2:30 p.m.
Headshot of Brittany Shammas
General assignment reporter
A former British soldier who was among thousands of foreign volunteers fighting for Ukraine has been killed, his family said in a Facebook post on Saturday.Jordan Gatley was fatally shot in Severodonetsk, a strategic eastern Ukrainian city that Russia has been fighting to capture. He had departed the British Army in March “to continue his career as a soldier in other areas," the post said, and believed the missions he took part in were “dangerous, but necessary.”The family said they learned the “devastating news” of his death on Friday, and said they would remember him as a hero.

War in Ukraine: What you need to know

The latest: Russian President Vladimir Putin signed decrees Friday to annex four occupied regions of Ukraine, following staged referendums that were widely denounced as illegal. Follow our live updates here.

The response: The Biden administration on Friday announced a new round of sanctions on Russia, in response to the annexations, targeting government officials and family members, Russian and Belarusian military officials and defense procurement networks. President Volodymyr Zelensky also said Friday that Ukraine is applying for “accelerated ascension” into NATO, in an apparent answer to the annexations.

In Russia: Putin declared a military mobilization on Sept. 21 to call up as many as 300,000 reservists in a dramatic bid to reverse setbacks in his war on Ukraine. The announcement led to an exodus of more than 180,000 people, mostly men who were subject to service, and renewed protests and other acts of defiance against the war.

The fight: Ukraine mounted a successful counteroffensive that forced a major Russian retreat in the northeastern Kharkiv region in early September, as troops fled cities and villages they had occupied since the early days of the war and abandoned large amounts of military equipment.

Photos: Washington Post photographers have been on the ground from the beginning of the war — here’s some of their most powerful work.

How you can help: Here are ways those in the U.S. can support the Ukrainian people as well as what people around the world have been donating.

Read our full coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war. Are you on Telegram? Subscribe to our channel for updates and exclusive video.