KRAMATORSK – The Russia-battered eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk appeared on Monday on the verge of becoming another Mariupol as services and aid were cut and Moscow seeks to conquer Ukraine’s entire industrial Donbass region.
Lugansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said the Russians had entered the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk and were pushing towards nearby Lysyhansk. He said two civilians were killed and five others wounded in the recent Russian shelling in the US War.
Ukrainian military said Russian forces are strengthening positions on the northeast and southeast outskirts of Sievierodonetsk and bringing additional equipment and ammunition to the area to fuel their offensive.
Russian forces stormed Sievierodonetsk after unsuccessfully trying to encircle it, Ukrainian officials said, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the situation there as “indescribably difficult”. Intense Russian artillery fire destroyed vital infrastructure and damaged 90% of buildings.
Sievierodonetsk, 143 kilometers south of the Russian border, has become the epicenter of the Donbass fighting in recent days. Mariupol is the Azov Sea city that spent nearly three months under Russian siege before the last Ukrainian fighters surrendered.
Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk span the strategically important Siverskiy Donetsk river. They are the last large areas under Ukrainian control in the Luhansk province, which together with the adjacent Donetsk region forms the Donbass.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told French TV channel TF1 on Sunday that Moscow’s “absolute priority is the liberation of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions,” adding that Russia considers them “independent states.” He also suggested that other regions of Ukraine should be able to develop close ties with Russia.
The Ukrainian army reported fierce fighting around the provincial capital of Donetsk, as well as around Lyman to the north, a small town that serves as a major railway junction in the Donetsk region.
“The enemy is strengthening its units,” said the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. “She’s trying to gain a foothold in the area.”
Zelenskyy will address on Monday European Union leaders gathering in a fresh show of solidarity with Ukraine amid disagreements over whether to target Russian oil in a new set of sanctions. He has repeatedly called for the EU to target Russia’s lucrative energy sector, stealing billions of dollars in delivery payments from Moscow every day.
Zelenskyy on Sunday visited soldiers in Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, where Ukrainian militants pushed back Russian forces from nearby positions a few weeks ago. Russia continues to shell the northeastern city from afar, and explosions were heard shortly after Zelenskyy’s visit. More than 2,000 apartment buildings in the city have been destroyed by shelling and airstrikes since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, according to regional governor Oleh Syniehubov.
In a video address later Sunday, Zelenskyy praised Kharkiv region officials but said he had fired the regional head of the country’s top security agency, the SBU, over his poor performance. In the wider Kharkiv region, Russian troops still held about a third of the territory, Zelenskyy said.
In Luhansk, constant Russian shelling has created what provincial governor Serhiy Haidai called a “serious situation.” But some supply and evacuation routes in Luhansk were working on Sunday, he said. He claimed the Russians retreated “with casualties” around a village near Sievierodonetsk, but launched air raids on another nearby riverside village.
Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Striuk estimates that 1,500 civilians have died in the city since the war began, both from Russian attacks and a lack of medicine or treatment.
The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, questioned the Kremlin’s strategy of waging a massive military effort to take Sieverodonetsk, saying it would be costly for Russia and yield little.
In Mariupol on Sunday, an aide to the Ukrainian mayor claimed that Russian forces, after gaining complete control of the city, piled the bodies of dead people in a supermarket. Petro Andryushchenko posted a photo on the messaging app Telegram showing bodies stacked next to closed supermarket counters. It was not immediately possible to verify his claim.
Ricardo Mazalan reported from Kyiv. AP journalists around the world contributed to this report.
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
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https://www.local10.com/business/2022/05/30/russian-troops-entering-sievierodonetsk-in-eastern-ukraine/ Russian troops enter Sieverodonetsk in eastern Ukraine