Russian forces on Tuesday stepped up efforts to cut off Ukrainian troops in the key industrial city of Severodonetsk in the east of the country despite Ukrainians insisting they were holding on.
Moscow has laid siege for weeks to the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, which are separated by a river, as the last areas in the eastern Donbas region of Lugansk still under Ukrainian control.
The head of Severodonetsk’s administration said “massive shelling” had destroyed a third bridge linking the twin cities, but insisted his city was “not isolated”.
“There are communication channels even if they are quite complicated,” Oleksandr Stryuk told Ukrainian television. Ukraine’s “continue to defend the city” but that the situation on the ground “changes every hour,” he added.
On Monday, Sergiy Gaiday, governor of Lugansk, told Radio Free Europe that Russian forces had “destroyed all the bridges and getting into the city is no longer possible. Evacuation is also not possible”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has branded the human cost of the battle for east “simply terrifying,” urging Western allies to speed arms deliveries to shore up Ukraine’s ability to reclaim territory.
“We just need enough weapons to ensure all of this. Our partners have them.”
His presidential advisor, Mikhaylo Podolyak, has listed hundreds of howitzers, tanks and armoured vehicles as among items needed by the Ukrainian army.
- ‘Tear off their arms’ –
“To end the war we need heavy weapons,” he tweeted.
Last week, Ukraine’s defence minister said up to 100 Ukrainian troops were being killed and 500 sustaining injuries every day.
The capture of Severodonetsk would open the road to Sloviansk and another major city, Kramatorsk, in Moscow’s push to conquer Donbas, a mainly Russian-speaking region partly held by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014.