Heavy fighting as Russian troops enter the outskirts of Severodonetsk


  • Russian troops enter the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk – Governor
  • Ukraine orders more weapons from the West
  • Borrell says the EU will agree to the next package of sanctions

Kyiv, Ukraine (May 30) (Reuters) – Russian forces have entered the outskirts of the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, the governor of Ukraine’s Kyiv province said on Monday, describing “extremely fierce” fighting over the ruins of a city that has become the focus of Moscow’s offensive. .

Russia has concentrated its firepower on the last major population center still under the control of Ukrainian forces in the eastern Luhansk province, in an attempt to achieve one of President Vladimir Putin’s stated goals three months into the war.

Incessant bombardment left Ukrainian forces defending the ruins at Severodonetsk, but their refusal to withdraw slowed the massive Russian offensive through the Donbass region.

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Luhansk region governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russian forces had advanced to the southeastern and northeastern outskirts of the city. But he said Ukrainian forces had driven the Russians out of the village of Toshkivka to the south, potentially frustrating Moscow’s efforts to encircle the area. Read more

“The capture of Severodonetsk is an essential task of the occupiers,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised address. “We are doing everything we can to achieve this progress.”

“About 90% of buildings were damaged. More than two-thirds of housing in the city was completely destroyed.”

European Union leaders are due to meet on Monday and Tuesday to discuss a new sanctions package against Russia, likely including an oil embargo.

But EU governments have been unable to reach an agreement during a month of talks, with Hungary in particular saying it cannot afford to shut down Russian oil that supplies its refineries through the massive Soviet-era Druzhba pipeline, whose name means “friendship”.

Ahead of the summit, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck expressed his concerns that the unity of the European Union was “starting to unravel”. The draft conclusions, seen by Reuters, indicated there wouldn’t be much in terms of new decisions. Read more

But the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell, said that “there will be an agreement at the end”, with agreement on the next package of sanctions on Monday afternoon.

‘Unconditional priority’

After failing to capture Kyiv in March, Russia announced that the focus of its “special military operation” was now to seize the entire Donbass region, consisting of two provinces, Luhansk and Donetsk, which Moscow claims on behalf of the separatist proxies.

On Sunday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the “liberation” of the Donbass was an “unconditional priority” for Moscow. Read more

The capture of Sievierodonetsk and its twin city Lysychansk on the opposite bank of the Siverskyi Donets would give Russia effective control of the Luhansk Province, a point at which the Kremlin might be able to declare some form of victory.

But by focusing its efforts on the single small town battle — Sievierodonetsk had only about 100,000 people before the war — Russia might leave other lands open to eventual Ukrainian counterstrikes.

The past few days have seen initial signs of a possible Ukrainian counterattack in the south, as Moscow tries to consolidate its control over Kherson province, captured in the first weeks after it launched its invasion in February.

Kyiv says its forces have pushed Russian forces back in recent days to defensive positions in three villages – Andreivka, Lozov and Belhorka – all on the southern bank of the Inholets River that forms the Kherson border.

The Institute for the Study of War, a think-tank, said this Ukrainian counterattack so far did not appear likely to retake large areas in the near term, but it could disrupt Russian operations and force Moscow to reinforce the region.

The city council said on Telegram that a Russian strike was suspected of having destroyed the center of the Ukrainian-controlled town of Novi Boh, just north of the Kherson front.

Russia said it also bombed a shipyard in Mykolaiv, a major Ukrainian-controlled port west of Kherson.

The French Foreign Ministry said French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna was due to meet Zelensky in Kyiv later on Monday to provide further support.

The Ukrainian government has urged the West to provide more long-range weapons to change the course of the war, now in its fourth month. Zelensky said he expects “good news” in the coming days.

A Ukrainian soldier on patrol in trenches near the town of Bakhmut, southwest of Severodonetsk, spoke of a nagging fear that his government would be drawn into negotiating an end to a conflict that could lead to Ukraine’s territorial loss.

“Do you now know what I am most afraid of, now that the fight has intensified, and so difficult?” Dmytro, a former English teacher, told Reuters TV. We will be told: That’s it, stop it, we have a ceasefire. “

“A negotiated settlement can only take place on Ukrainian terms, and right now if it did happen it would be horrific.”

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Writing by Humira Pamuk, Stephen Coates and Peter Graf; Editing by Simon Cameron Moore and Kevin Levy

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