Ukrainian officials said Tuesday that Russian forces destroyed the last remaining bridge connecting to Sievierodonetsk, severing an evacuation route for civilians still in the eastern city that has been a main focus of fighting in recent weeks.
Ukraine’s military said in an update about the conflict that Russian forces were “trying to gain a foothold in the central part of the city.”
Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said that despite the Russian attempt to storm the city, the Ukrainian military “is holding firm.”
A Ukrainian official said Russian troops have pushed into the center of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk and continue to shell a chemical plant sheltering hundreds of soldiers and civilians.
Regional governor Serhiy Haidai said Monday on Telegram that Russian troops controlled about 70% of the Sievierodonetsk, and that the city’s Azot chemical plant was being “heavily shelled.”
He said the city’s Azot chemical plant, where hundreds of civilians are sheltering, is being “heavily shelled.”
Haidai said about 500 civilians remain on the grounds of the plant and that Ukraine’s military is trying to get them to safety.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the battle for the Donbas region “will surely go down in military history as one of the most violent battles in Europe.”
“For us, the price of this battle is very high. It is just scary,” Zelenskyy said late Monday.
He added a repeated call for partner countries to send Ukraine modern artillery to use against Russian forces.
Zelenskyy’s adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said Monday that Ukraine is waiting for a decision on more military aid as participants in the U.S.-led Contact Group meet Wednesday at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
Podolyak, tweeted that “to end the war we need heavy weapons parity.” He listed several categories of weapons, including 1,000 howitzers, 300 multiple launch rocket systems, 500 tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles and 1,000 drones.
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is convening the meeting at NATO headquarters. A virtual meeting of the group last month drew representatives from 47 countries, NATO and the European Union.
Austin said after the May talks that the group was “intensifying our efforts” and working to deepen coordination with Ukraine “so that Ukraine can sustain and strengthen its battlefield operations.”
Britain’s defense ministry said Monday that in recent days the battle around Sievierodonetsk “has continued to rage.”
The ministry said Russia’s ability to carry out river crossing operations will likely be one of the most important factors in the war in the coming months.
“To achieve success in the current operational phase of its Donbas offensive, Russia is either going to have to complete ambitious flanking actions, or conduct assault river crossings,” it said.
Russia claims it already controls 97% of the Luhansk province where Sievierodonetsk is located. But capturing the industrial city of Sievierodonetsk, with a prewar population of 100,000, remains crucial to Moscow’s broader goal of controlling the eastern Donbas region, which encompasses the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces.
Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and Kyiv’s forces have been fighting pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region since then.
By: Megan Duzor, Chris Hannas
Some material in this report came from Reuters, The Associated Press, and Agence France-Presse.