Artillery vehicle

Russian artillery shells Sievierodonetsk | Reuters

  • Sievierodonetsk at the epicenter of the Battle of Donbass
  • Fierce fighting in the city – Zelenskiy
  • Russian troops control around 70% of the city, regional governor says
  • Hundreds of civilians take shelter in a chemical plant

KYIV/BAKHMUT, Ukraine, June 13 (Reuters) – Russian forces invaded the eastern Ukrainian town of Sievierodonetsk and pounded an area where hundreds of civilians had taken refuge, an official said on Monday. Ukrainian official – a scene that mirrored Moscow’s assault on Mariupol last month.

Pro-Moscow separatists claimed that the last bridge at Sievierodonetsk had been destroyed and the Ukrainian defenders must now surrender or die. Ukraine said there was yet another way out, although this road was badly damaged.

Ukraine has issued increasingly urgent calls for more Western weapons to help defend Sievierodonetsk, which Kyiv says may hold the key to the outcome of the battle for control of the eastern Donbass region and of the future course of the war.

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“The battles are so fierce that fighting not just for a street but for a single high-rise building can last for days,” regional governor Sergei Gadai said on social media.

Russian forces now controlled about 70% of Sievierodonetsk, he said, and were destroying it “quarter by quarter” in one of the bloodiest assaults since they launched their invasion on February 24.

“The Russians continue to storm the city, having a significant advantage in the artillery, they pushed back the Ukrainian soldiers somewhat,” said Gaidai, who is governor of the Luhansk region which includes Sievierodonetsk.

Russian artillery fire hit the Azot chemical plant, where hundreds of civilians had taken refuge, he said.

“About 500 civilians remain on the grounds of the Azot plant in Sievierodonetsk, including 40 children. Sometimes the military manages to evacuate someone,” he said, noting the lack of a ceasefire agreement. -fire or agree on the escape corridors.

Russian news agency RIA quoted pro-Moscow separatist spokesman Eduard Basurin as saying the last bridge over the Siverskyi Donets River linking Sievierodonetsk and its Ukrainian twin city Lysychansk was destroyed on Sunday. Ukrainian troops were effectively pinned down in Sievierodonetsk and must surrender or die, he said.

Gaidai also said a crossing point was destroyed on Sunday, but there was still another “half-destroyed” bridge, although it could not be used for heavy vehicles.

IMAGE OF RUSSIA

The Ukrainian tale of civilians trapped in an industrial plant echoes the fall of Mariupol last month, where hundreds of seriously injured Ukrainian civilians and soldiers were evacuated after being trapped for weeks in Azovstal steelworks.

Ukrainian officials have expressed concern over the fate of troops who surrendered after many were taken to Russia, and said cholera is spreading among remaining residents due to bodies left buried in the rubble of destroyed residential buildings. .

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said heavy fighting continued in Donbass, “literally for every metre” and child victims of attacks had created a lasting image of Russia for the rest of the world.

“Not Peter the Great, not Leo Tolstoy, but children injured and killed in Russian attacks,” he said in his nightly video address on Sunday, apparently referring to President Vladimir Putin’s comparison between the military campaign of Moscow and the 18th century conquest by Russian Emperor Peter the Great. land held by Sweden.

Russia has denied targeting civilians in what it calls a “special operation” aimed at restoring Russian security and “denazifying” its neighbour. Ukraine and its Western allies call it a baseless pretext for an invasion that has killed thousands of civilians and raised fears of a wider conflict in Europe.

More than five million people have fled the onslaught and millions more are threatened by a global energy and food crisis due to the disruption of gas, oil and grain supplies from Russia and Ukraine. Western nations are divided on how best to end it. Read more

Gaidai said a six-year-old child was among those killed in the latest bombing of Lysychansk. The Russian-backed, separatist-controlled Donetsk region news agency said at least three people, including a child, were killed by Ukrainian shelling that hit a market in the city of Donetsk. Reuters could not verify either report.

BURNED CROPS

After failing to take the capital Kyiv, Moscow has focused on expanding control in Donbass, where pro-Russian separatists have held territory since 2014, while trying to conquer more of the southern coast of the Black Sea from Ukraine.

Along the front line in the Donbass, fighting poses a new threat as the weather warms, with shelling and rocket fire setting fire to fields and destroying ripening crops.

Lyuba, a resident of Ukraine’s Donbass pocket near the front, watched a fire blaze along the fields but said she had no plans to leave. “Where can I go? Who is waiting for me there? she says. “It’s scary. But that’s the way it is.”

In Sievierodonetsk, Ukrainian and Russian forces suffered heavy casualties, Roman Vlasenko, head of the Sievierodonetsk district administration, told local television.

“Our boys are holding on but the conditions are tough,” he said. Vlasenko said the city had been without communications and normal services for a month and that Russia was sending reinforcements.

The battle was preventing Russian forces from advancing in the south, said Ukrainian Interior Ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak listed the equipment he said was needed for heavy weapons parity, including 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks and 1,000 drones.

“We are waiting for a decision,” he said, adding that Western defense ministers would meet in Brussels on Wednesday.

Russia released the latest of several recent reports indicating it had destroyed US and European weapons and equipment, hoping to send the message that delivering more would be futile.

The Defense Ministry said high-precision aerial missiles struck near Udachne railway station northwest of Donetsk, hitting equipment that had been delivered to Ukrainian forces. There was no immediate news from the Ukrainian side.

Moscow has criticized the United States and other countries for sending weapons to Ukraine, threatening to strike new targets if the West supplies long-range missiles.

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Additional reporting by Tom Balmforth, Alexander Marrow, Olzhas Auyezov, Max Hunder and Reuters bureaus; Written by Michael Perry and Philippa Fletcher; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Peter Graff

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