Ukraine says troops resist Sievierodonetsk after last bridge destroyed

  • Mayor says some evacuations are still possible
  • Ukraine seeks howitzers, tanks and drones from the West
  • Reports gains against Russian forces in the south

KYIV, June 14 (Reuters) – Ukraine said on Tuesday its forces were still resisting inside Sievierodonetsk and trying to evacuate civilians, after Russia destroyed the last bridge leading to the devastated city of is, potential turning point of one of the bloodiest battles of the war.

Russia said it would give Ukrainian fighters locked in a chemical plant inside the city a chance to surrender on Wednesday morning. The fighters should “cease their senseless resistance and lay down their arms” from 8 a.m. Moscow time, Interfax news agency said quoting Mikhail Mizintsev, head of Russia’s National Defense Management Center.

Civilians would be freed through a “humanitarian corridor”, he said.

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The city’s Ukrainian mayor, Oleksandr Stryuk, said: “The situation is very difficult but there is communication with the city” despite the destruction of the last bridge over the Siverskyi Donets river. “Russian troops are trying to storm the city, but the army is holding on.”

Ukraine says more than 500 civilians are trapped inside Azot, a chemical plant where its forces have withstood weeks of bombardment and Russian assaults.

Evacuations were still carried out “every minute when there is a lull and there is a possibility of transportation,” Stryuk said. “But these are discreet evacuations, done one by one, and every possible chance is taken.”

Regional Governor Serhiy Gaidai said: “The shelling is so powerful that people can’t take it anymore in the shelters, their psychological state is on the brink. In recent days, the inhabitants are finally ready to leave.

Both sides claim to have inflicted huge casualties in fighting for the city, Russia’s main target in its battle for the east of the country after failing to capture the capital Kyiv in March.

Ukraine still holds Lysychansk, Sievierodonetsk’s twin town on higher ground on the opposite bank. But with all bridges now cut, his forces recognize the threat of being surrounded at Sievierodonetsk. Russia’s separatist proxies have said any Ukrainian troops left behind must surrender or die.

Damien Megrou, spokesman for a unit of foreign volunteers helping to defend Sievierodonetsk, said there was a risk of leaving “a large pocket of Ukrainian defenders cut off from the rest of the Ukrainian troops” – such as in Mariupol, the port of the Black Sea who surrendered last month after months of Russian siege.


The Battle of Sievierodonetsk – a city of just over 100,000 before the war – is now Ukraine’s biggest battle as the conflict has devolved into a punitive war of attrition.

Kyiv said it loses between 100 and 200 soldiers killed every day, and hundreds more injured. In an overnight address, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy described the battle for the eastern Donbas region – partly occupied by Moscow proxies since 2014 – as one of the most brutal in European history.

Russia doesn’t give regular numbers on its own losses, but Western nations say they were massive, as Moscow committed most of its firepower to one of President Vladimir Putin’s stated goals: force Kyiv to cede the entire territory of two eastern provinces.

The momentum in Sievierodonetsk has changed several times in recent weeks – with Russia focusing its overwhelming artillery firepower on urban neighborhoods to crush resistance, then sending in vulnerable infantry to counterattack.

Bigger battles may be ahead for the wider Ukrainian-held pocket of Donbass, almost all on the opposite bank of the river that Russian forces have struggled to cross. Ukraine says Russia is gathering to attack Sloviansk from the north and along a front near Bakhmut in the south.

He pleaded for the West to send more and better artillery.

“What we don’t have enough of are weapons that really reach the range we need to reduce the Russian Federation‘s equipment advantage,” Zelenskiy told Danish reporters during a briefing. press release Tuesday.

Ukraine needs 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks and 1,000 drones among other heavy weapons, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Monday. Western countries have promised NATO-standard weapons – including advanced US rockets. But their deployment takes time.

“Indeed, (Ukraine) wants to deploy a new army, with western equipment, with unknown processes, while waging a war,” tweeted Mark Hertling, a three-star retired US general and former forces commander. US land lines in Europe.

“Make no mistake, the UKR needs US and NATO support,” he wrote. Ukraine “will win, but it will be a tough fight. And… the fans need to understand the dynamics of what they are up against.”

Beyond Donbass, Ukrainian officials hope Russia’s focus on capturing the east will drain its forces from other regions and pave the way for counterattacks to retake other territories.

Ukraine retook the area around its second-largest city, Kharkiv, in May and has seen small but steady gains in recent days in the south, the bulk Russia retains of territory it seized after its invasion in February.

Serhiy Khlan, adviser to the head of the mainly Russian-occupied southern province of Kherson, said Ukraine was tactically successful in retaking the territory for the second week in a row. Troops had already advanced 5 km (three miles) from Tavriysk, a town on the southern bank of the Dnipro River east of the city of Kherson, and were advancing gradually, he said.

“We have tactical victories. They turn into a counter-offensive. For the counter-offensive, we are waiting for the reinforcement of equipment from our partners,” Khlan said. Reuters was unable to verify reports from the area.

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Reporting from Reuters offices Writing by Peter Graff Editing by Gareth Jones and Mark Heinrich

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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