Ukrainian troops struggle to halt Russian advance in east

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LYSYCHANSK, Ukraine — Ukrainian troops struggled to repel Russian advances in the country’s Donbas region of the country on Monday, as Kremlin forces entered key areas for Moscow’s goal of consolidating its control over the east from Ukraine.

Ukraine’s military said Ukrainian fighters were forced to withdraw from the center of Severodonetsk, a strategic town in the Luhansk region, marking a “partial success” for Russia. Russian forces now control about three-quarters of the city, officials said, a worrying sign as Kyiv struggles to regain the battlefield advantage it enjoyed in the first months after the February 24 invasion. by President Vladimir Putin.

Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesman for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry, said local forces continued to put up a fierce defense in Severodonetsk, but acknowledged that Russian troops controlled the city center. He said the Russian gains were made possible by the use of heavy artillery and air power. “Russian forces continue to use World War II-era tactics,” he said.

US officials believe Severodonetsk could fall within days, paving the way for Russia to complete its control of Luhansk, one of two governorates in the Donbass region, in the coming weeks. If that happens, it would represent a major turnaround for Moscow after the early months of the war, when Russian troops failed to capture the capital Kyiv and other key areas of central Ukraine.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said many residents had fled intense Russian shelling, which hit homes, kindergartens and commercial areas across the region. In a Telegram post on Monday, he said around 500 civilians, including some 40 children, had taken shelter from Russian shelling in bunkers under the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk.

Ukraine runs out of ammunition as battlefield outlook dims

As Ukrainian forces face greater resistance, President Volodymyr Zelensky has called on Ukraine’s supporters to provide additional military aid, including more missile defense and artillery systems. Ukrainian troops, which are suffering more and more casualties, also lack sufficient ammunition.

“The price of this battle for us is very high. It’s just scary,” Zelensky said in a nighttime video address. “We daily draw the attention of our partners to the fact that only a sufficient number of modern artillery for Ukraine will ensure our advantage and finally an end to the Russian torture of Ukrainian Donbass.”

As some of Ukraine’s supporters in the West mull over the terms of a negotiated settlement, Zelensky has shown little openness to concessions from Kyiv, promising to liberate cities such as Kherson and Mariupol, as well as Yalta on the peninsula. of Crimea annexed by Russia. .

“All it takes is enough guns to make that happen,” he said. “The partners have enough. And we work every day so that the political will gives us these weapons to appear.

Russian forces are advancing in other parts of the country’s east, pushing towards Sloviansk in neighboring Donetsk region, officials said.

Denis Pushilin, the pro-Russian separatist who leads the self-declared People’s Republic of Donetsk, has called for additional military aid from Russia due to what he said is increased government bombardment.

Pushilin, speaking in a video address, urged civilians to stay indoors. “The enemy has literally crossed every line,” he said. “Prohibited methods of warfare are used; the residential and central districts of Donetsk are bombarded; and other towns and villages in the DPR are now under fire.

The British Ministry of Defense has said that river-crossing operations could play an increasingly important role in the conflict in the coming months, as Russian forces focus their firepower on towns such as Severodonetsk and Lysychansk which depend on river traffic for their resupply.

To control the Donbass region, Russia “will either have to carry out ambitious circumvention actions or carry out assault river crossings”, the ministry said on Monday. He said Russian forces had struggled to successfully stage river crossing operations and respond to Ukrainian bridge demolitions.

Haidai said the Russian military rammed a bridge over the Siversky Donets River, which connects Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, on Sunday, eliminating an escape route for civilians.

The civilians who remained face dire conditions, with many forced underground amid regular Russian bombardment. One such person is 68-year-old Lysychansk resident Lyubov Nefedova, who has lived in a school basement since February, sleeping on chairs and living in near total darkness.

At night, she finds comfort only in her sister, who sleeps next to her. Like many others, Nefedova remains hopeful that Ukrainian forces can still fend off an increasingly imminent assault.

“I was born here. I live here,” Nefedova said. But for months even her apartment seemed too far away to be safe. “So I’m not leaving this place.”

‘They’re in hell’: Russian artillery hail tests Ukrainian morale

The streets of Lysychansk are almost empty. Downtown, evidence of recent bombings is everywhere. A university building has completely burned down. The windows of his administrative building are broken. The soldiers are tense, searching the cars at each checkpoint.

No civilians linger near a large sign reading “I <3 LYSYCHANSK".

Instead, like Nefedova, they hide indoors, mostly in parts of the city furthest from Severodonetsk and the river that separates the two cities. They insist they won’t leave – many because they know they can’t afford to live anywhere else.

“A typical day in Lysychansk right now is simple,” said 37-year-old Serhii Bystrikov. “You cook the food, you go to school for help, then you go to the bunker, because it’s too scary to stay on the eighth floor of my apartment.

From humanitarian aid, Bystrikov has enough to get by: rice, macaroni, canned meat, water and bread. Until recently, he worked at the Azot chemical plant. In the school where he is housed, makeshift beds littered the basement. Upstairs, volunteers taught teachers how to tie makeshift tourniquets, using the strap of a handbag as an example. Outside, the roar of artillery shells echoed in the sky.

Russian forces continued their advance as Western nations debate the future shape of NATO ahead of a June 29 meeting of alliance leaders.

While NATO officials expected membership applications from Finland and Sweden – a reflection of how Putin’s war has altered the security outlook in Europe – to move forward quickly, objections from member Turkey have cast doubt on this idea.

Officials had hoped that technical talks on these countries’ membership would be completed by the Madrid summit. That now seems unlikely.

Speaking after talks in Brussels on Monday, Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson said Sweden was working to address Turkey’s concerns, which involve the Nordic countries’ stance on arms sales to Turkey and their treatment of people Ankara says are part of the Kurdistan worker ban. Party (PKK).

Andersson said Stockholm would come up with “much tougher legislation” on arms exports and militant activity as part of its effort to win Turkey’s support. “We will of course make it very clear how we work against terrorism and fight against terrorism,” she said.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said he hoped for an agreement “as soon as possible” that would allow the inclusion of the two countries, which would add two advanced armies to the alliance and double the NATO land border- Russia.

But, he added, “when multiple nations are involved in these talks, there is no way of telling exactly when we can resolve and move forward on these issues.”

O’Grady reported from Sloviansk. Mary Ilyushina in Riga, Latvia; Heidi Levine in Lysychansk; and Julian Duplain in London contributed to this report.

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Post expires at 7:29am on Friday June 24th, 2022

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