Russian forces close in on key Ukraine city in east

Russian forces close in on key Ukraine city in east

LYSYCHANSK: Russian troops were moving in on the strategic city of Severodonetsk on Friday in a relentless offensive to control Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, bombing residential areas and claiming the capture of a key town.

At least nine people were killed a day earlier in shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, raising fears that Russia had not lost interest in the northeastern hub even after Ukraine managed to take back control.

Around 10 people were also killed in Russian strikes on a military facility in the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro, well away from the frontline of the offensive, the regional head of the national guard said.

Three months after Russia launched its invasion on February 24, leaving thousands dead on both sides and forcing 6.6 million Ukrainians out of the country, Moscow is focusing on the east of Ukraine after failing in its initial ambition to capture Kyiv.

Russian forces were closing in on Severodonetsk and also Lysychansk in the pro-separatist Lugansk province, which stand on the crucial route to Ukraine’s eastern administrative centre in Kramatorsk.

“Russia is pressuring the Severodonetsk pocket although Ukraine retains control of multiple defended sectors, denying Russia full control of the Donbas,” the British defence ministry said in its latest briefing.

A Lugansk police official, cited by Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti, said Severodonetsk was “now surrounded” and Ukrainian troops could no longer leave the city.

That was denied by senior city official Oleksandr Stryuk, though he acknowledged that the situation was “very difficult” with incessant bombing. Pro-Russian separatists said they had captured the town of Lyman that lies between Severodonetsk and Kramatorsk, on the road leading to the key cities that are still under Kyiv’s control.

Lugansk’s regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said in a video on Telegram that at least five civilians had been killed in his region in the past 24 hours alone.

“People are willing to risk everything to get food and water,” said Oleksandr Kozyr, the head of the main aid distribution centre in Lysychansk.

“They are so psychologically depressed that they are no longer scared. All they care about is finding food,” he said.

‘Won’t stop the metro’

Oleg Sinegubov, governor of the Kharkiv region, said that nine civilians had been killed in the Russian shelling on Thursday.

A five-month-old child and her father were among the dead, while her mother was gravely wounded, he said on social media channels.

The city of Kharkiv’s mayor, Igor Terekhov, said its metro system, which resumed work this week after being used mainly as a shelter since the Russian invasion, would continue operating while still providing a safe space for residents.

“We will not stop the metro, but we will allocate special sectors where you can stay and shelter from bombing,” Terekhov said.

Observers believe that Russia’s gains in over three months of war have been far more paltry than President Vladimir Putin hoped, though Moscow has gained control over a handful of cities in southern Ukraine, such as Kherson and Mariupol.

Published in Dawn, May 28th, 2022

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