Kiev, 28 May 2022 (dpa/MIA) – The Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk is almost completely surrounded by Russian troops, the local military administration said Friday, while Moscow claimed it had already encircled the hard-fought area.
Two-thirds of the city in the Luhansk region is already besieged but not yet encircled, the head of the local military administration, Oleksandr Stryuk, said on Telegram, adding that Ukrainian government troops continue to put up fierce resistance.
Pro-Russian separatists however said the city was completely surrounded, according to Moscow’s state news agency Ria Novosti.
Stryuk said about 90% of the buildings in the city are damaged, and 60% will have to be completely rebuilt.
Sievierodonetsk is one of the last parts of Luhansk still controlled by the Ukrainian army.
Luhansk Governor Serhii Haidi said there were enough resources in the city to hold defences, but that there could be a tactical withdrawal of Ukraine’s military. Russian soldiers are in the city, he said.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meanwhile said the situation in the eastern regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, collectively known as Donbass, was difficult as Russian missile and air attacks continued. He said the Ukrainian army was defending the country with all available resources.
“If the occupiers think that Lyman and Sievierodonetsk will be theirs, they are mistaken. The Donbass will be Ukrainian,” Zelensky said in his evening address.
The status of Lyman in Donetsk was unclear as amid fierce fighting, pro-Russian separatists claimed to have taken the town of Lyman, while the Ukrainian general staff said fighting continued around it in their latest situation report.
“The enemy is trying to push the Ukrainian units out of the village of Lyman and develop an attack on Slovyansk,” the evening report said.
Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko meanwhile said Russia was responsible for five civilian deaths in the government-controlled part of the region, while Ukraine’s military reported Russian artillery, tank, mortar and air attacks on civilian instrastructure in 49 localities in Donetsk and Luhansk.
Ukraine’s military killed 60 Russian fighters in the regions and destroyed five tanks, they said.
The information cannot be independently verified.
Russia’s military also confirmed attacks on the eastern Ukrainian regions of Kharkiv and Donetsk.
Russian forces have been advancing far more quickly in eastern Ukraine than in previous weeks, aided by the massive deployment of artillery and air power.
Earlier, it emerged that around 1,500 soldiers and civilians have been killed in Sievierodonetsk, according to official Ukrainian figures. The city is now just a tenth of its size, as so many people have fled, Stryuk said.
Meanwhile, a local politician said dozens more bodies had been found in the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, now in the power of Russian troops.
Rescue workers discovered 70 bodies on a former factory site, Mariupol city council deputy Petro Andriushchenko wrote on the Telegram messaging service.
Mariupol, which was besieged by Russian troops for weeks and finally captured, has become an international symbol of the brutality of the Russian war.
Russian and pro-Russian military forces laid siege for weeks to the Azovstal steelworks, where the last Ukrainian defenders had entrenched themselves. More than a week ago, the more than 2,400 men and women surrendered.
They are now in Russian captivity and their fate is unclear, with Kiev hoping to organize a prisoner exchange. However, Russian lawmakers have threatened to try them and efforts are under way to classify the Azov regiment, to which many of the fighters in Azovstal belonged, as a terrorist organization.
Russia attacked neighbouring Ukraine on February 24 but after failing to make advances on the capital Kiev and in other areas of Ukraine, Moscow pulled back to concentrate on taking the separatist-dominated areas in the east and the south of the country.