Ukrainians stuck with one way out of Sievierodonetsk as fierce fighting rages

  • Sievierodonetsk epicenter of the Battle of Donbas
  • Severe fighting in the city – Zelenskiy
  • Escape routes narrow after second of three bridges destroyed

Kyiv, June 13 (Reuters) – Ukrainian defenders were fighting fiercely for “every meter” of Sievierodonetsk, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, as Russian forces destroyed a bridge to another city across the river, leaving civilians stranded with a single exit.

Russian forces have taken most of Sievierodonetsk, having pulverized parts of the city in one of the bloodiest attacks since they invaded Ukraine on February 24, and victory there could give them momentum in a broader battle for control. from the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine.

“The key tactical objective of the occupiers has not changed: they are pressing on Sievierodonetsk, there is heavy fighting there, literally for every meter,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his late-night video address on Sunday, adding that the military of Russia was trying to pour reserves into the Donbas.

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Zelenskiy said the image of a 12-year-old boy wounded in a Russian attack was now Russia’s enduring global face.

“These very facts will underline the way Russia is viewed by the world,” he said.

“Not Peter the Great, not Lev Tolstoy, but children wounded and killed in Russian attacks,” he said, in an apparent reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments last week comparing Moscow’s military campaign to the emperor’s conquest of land. Russian Peter the Great in the 18th century. held by Sweden.

Ukrainian and Russian forces were still fighting street by street in Sievierodonetsk on Sunday, Luhansk Oblast Governor Serhiy Gaidai said.

Russian forces have taken most of the city, but Ukrainian troops still control an industrial zone and the Azot chemical plant, where hundreds of civilians are sheltering.

“About 500 civilians remain on the grounds of the Azot plant in Sievierodonetsk, 40 of them are children. Sometimes the military manages to evacuate someone,” Gaidai said.

But the Russians had destroyed a bridge over the Siverskyi Donets River linking Sievierodonetsk with its twin city of Lysychansk, Gaidai said.

That left only one of the three bridges still standing.

“If after a new shelling the bridge collapses, the city will really be cut off. There will be no way to leave Sievierodonetsk in a vehicle,” Gaidai said, pointing to the lack of a ceasefire agreement and agreed evacuation corridors.

Gaidai said that Lysychansk was also being shelled by Russian forces and that a six-year-old boy had been killed there.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm that account.

In Pokrovsk, southwest of Sievierodonetsk, women, children and the elderly, some in wheelchairs, boarded the only train evacuating people on Saturday, beginning a long journey from the conflict zone to safety in Lviv, near the border with Poland.

“We resisted until the last moment, we didn’t want to leave, but life forced us to survive,” Lyuba, a woman from Lysychansk, told Reuters Television as she waited for the train to leave. “We’re going, we don’t know where, to whom, but we’re going.”


The fall of Sievierodonetsk, the last holdout of Ukrainian land in the strategic Luhansk region, would bring Russia much closer to one of the declared targets of what Putin calls a “special military operation.”

Russian forces were firing mortars and artillery south and southwest of Sievierodonetsk, according to Ukraine’s general staff. But he said Ukrainian forces had rebuffed Russian attempts to advance on some communities.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the battlefield reports.

After being forced to scale back its initial targets following the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has turned its attention to expanding control in Donbas, where pro-Russian separatists have held territory since 2014.

Russian forces have engaged in constant bombardment of cities in the south and east, leaving many in ruins and thousands of civilians dead, according to the United Nations.

Elsewhere, Russian cruise missiles destroyed a large depot containing US and European weapons in the Ternopil region of western Ukraine, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.

Ternopil’s governor said rockets fired from the Black Sea at the city of Chortkiv partially destroyed a military facility and wounded 22 people. A local official said there were no weapons stored there.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm the different accounts.

On Sunday, the Ukrainian General Staff said on Facebook that General Valeriy Zaluzhny, head of Ukraine’s armed forces, had spoken with General Mark Milley, the top US military officer, and reiterated a request for more heavy artillery systems.

Moscow has criticized the United States and other nations for sending weapons to Ukraine, threatening to attack new targets if the West supplies long-range missiles.

Putin says Russia’s actions are aimed at disarming and “denazifying” Ukraine. Kyiv and its allies call it an unprovoked war of aggression to capture territory.

Also on Sunday, the leader of the Russian-backed breakaway Donetsk region in the Donbas said there was no reason to pardon two British citizens sentenced to death last week after they were captured along with a Moroccan while fighting for Ukraine. Britain says they were regular soldiers exempt under the Geneva Conventions from prosecution for taking part in hostilities. read more

Separately, the family of a former British soldier, Jordan Gatley, said on social media that he was killed fighting for Ukraine in Sievierodonetsk. read more

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Information from the offices of Reuters, written by Michael Perry; Edited by Simon Cameron-Moore

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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