Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk now ‘completely under Russian occupation’ after months of fighting

“The [Russians] named commander. But the city is so destroyed that it will be difficult for people to cope with this situation,” said the head of the military administration, Oleksandr Striuk.

Regional military officials said on Friday that the last troops in Severodonetsk had been ordered to withdraw as it was impossible to continue defending their positions. This effectively ceded the city to Russia and brought the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine almost entirely under Russian control.

Severodonetsk was one of the last major Ukrainian strongholds in the area. Serhiy Hayday, a senior military commander in eastern Ukraine, said the military made the decision to evacuate “because the number of dead in unfortified territories can grow every day.”

“Currently, there is no possibility to leave the city, people can try to leave alone in the direction of the occupied territory. We will facilitate the evacuation, but so far there is no such opportunity,” Striuk said.

Several hundred civilians had taken refuge at the Azot chemical plant and refused pleas to leave. Earlier on Saturday, Hayday said Russian forces were still shelling the plant.

“Civilians are leaving the territory of the Azot plant, they [the Russians] shoot propaganda videos with them. People spent almost 3 months in basements, shelters. At the moment, they need physical and psychological help,” Striuk added.

Avalanche of missile attacks

Ukraine has been hit by a spate of missile attacks, with official accounts there estimating that Russia fired more than 40 missiles at targets in Ukraine in the last 24 hours.

The Ukrainian Army General Staff said there was more shelling around Kharkiv, and that the Russians tried to launch an assault near the Uda settlement north of Kharkiv, but “were decisively suppressed by our soldiers.”
Ukraine may have endured its worst week since the fall of Mariupol

North of Sloviansk, the Ukrainian military reported continued battles in areas that have been on the front lines for months. The Russians used artillery and air strikes against Ukrainian positions some 20 kilometers north of the city.

On the southern front, the Ukrainian army reported that a Russian assault to regain previously lost ground at Kherson had been repulsed. Ukrainian forces have been advancing towards Kherson, with limited success, from the Mykolaiv region.
The mayor of the city of Mykolaiv, Oleksandr Sienkevyck, reported explosions there overnight. On Friday, he urged “everyone who wants to stay alive to leave the city,” saying it was being “bombed every day,” with 111 people dead so far.

The regional military administration also reported explosions in Zhytomyr, in central Ukraine, that killed one soldier and wounded another, although the city’s mayor said Zhytomyr itself “was not hit.” The head of the military administration said that the Ukrainian defenders had shot down “about 10 missiles”. Regional authorities in Lviv, in western Ukraine, also reported missile attacks on military installations.

Offensive continues in eastern Ukraine

Two US officials with direct knowledge of US intelligence assessments told CNN that Russian forces were gaining an advantage in eastern Ukraine as they learned from mistakes made during the early stages of their invasion of the country, including better coordination of air and ground attacks, as well as improvements. to logistics and supply lines.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops in the eastern city of Lysychansk are under increasing pressure from Russian forces that have seized territory south of the city. Hayday said Russian forces tried to enter Lysychansk from the south and encircle the city, and also carried out an airstrike on the city.
A local resident walks in front of an apartment building destroyed in a missile attack, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine, in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on June 13, 2022.

The Ukrainian Army General Staff said on Saturday that Russian efforts to cut off the main route from Bakhmut to Lysychansk are continuing. He said that the Ukrainian soldiers had stopped the advance of the Russian infantry near Volodymyrivka, which is 5 kilometers from the road. But the General Staff acknowledged that the Russians had advanced 1 kilometer as they approached Bakhmut.

The Russian goal appears to be to isolate Ukrainian forces in a pocket of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. If they capture Bakhmut, they could prevent most of the Ukrainian defenders’ resupply efforts in Lysychansk and surrounding districts.

Ukraine claims attacks launched from Belarusian airspace

As Ukrainian authorities assessed the damage caused by dozens of missile strikes overnight, the Defense Ministry’s Main Intelligence Directorate said many of the missiles were fired from Belarusian airspace.

The Directorate said that “the missile attacks from the territory of Belarus are a large-scale provocation by the Russian Federation to further involve Belarus in the war against Ukraine.”

He said: “The Russian bombers hit directly from the territory of Belarus. Six Tu-22M3 aircraft were involved, which launched 12 Kh-22 cruise missiles.” The Directorate said the missiles had been launched from the airspace over the Petrikov district in southern Belarus.

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“After launching the missiles, they returned to the Shaikovka airfield in Russia. The attack was launched in the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions.”

“This is the first case of an air strike on Ukraine directly from the territory of Belarus,” the Directorate said. CNN cannot confirm that allegation.

Ukraine’s air force command echoed the Defense Ministry’s comments, saying on its Facebook page that “more than fifty missiles of various types were fired: air, sea and ground.”

There has been no word from the Belarusian government about the alleged use of its airspace for the latest attacks on Ukraine.

Ukraine denies Russian claim of attack on Polish ‘mercenaries’

A Russian missile hit the Donetsk town of Kostiantynivka on Saturday, according to local authorities and the Russian Defense Ministry.

But the two sides’ versions of what was attacked differ. Oleksii Roslov, head of the Kostiantynivka civil military administration, said a “critical infrastructure object was hit,” affecting gas supplies and killing one person.

The Russian Defense Ministry released a short video of the missile attack, saying it targeted Polish mercenaries based at the Megatex plant in Kostiantynivka and killed up to 80 of them, as well as the rocket launchers.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov said: “The enemy continues to suffer significant losses. Up to 80 Polish mercenaries, 20 armored fighting vehicles and eight Grad multiple launch rocket systems were destroyed as a result of attacks with high-precision weapons of the Russian Aerospace Forces in the buildings of the Megatex zinc plant”.

Roslov denied the claim. “There were no military there. There were a lot of people there after the attack, everyone can confirm that there were no military,” Roslov told CNN.

Some 45,000 people remain in the city, which is some distance from the front lines.

CNN’s Jim Sciutto, Sebastian Shukla and Joshua Berlinger contributed to this report.

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