Severodonetsk mayor says Russian forces have captured half of the city


Slovakia, Ukraine (AFP) – In a “frantic attack”, Russian forces have captured half of the city of Severodonetsk, eastern Ukraine considered essential Moscow’s efforts The mayor said on Tuesday to complete the capture of the Donbass industrial area.

“The city is being ruthlessly destroyed by a block of building,” Oleksandr Stryuk said. He said heavy fighting in the streets continues and artillery shelling threatens the lives of an estimated 13,000 civilians still sheltering in the devastated city, once home to more than 100,000.

A Russian air strike on Severodonetsk hit a tank containing nitric acid at a chemical plant, causing a major leak of fumes, according to Serhiy Haiday, governor of the Luhansk region. He posted a picture of a large cloud hanging over the city and urged residents to stay indoors and wear gas masks or improvised masks.

Hayday said later Tuesday that “most of Severodonetsk” was under Russian control, though he added that heavy fighting continued and the city had not been cordoned off.

Severodonetsk is important to Russian efforts to seize Donbass before more Western weapons arrive to bolster Ukraine’s defense. The Moscow-backed separatists have been fighting Ukrainian forces in the region for eight years and seized large swathes of territory even before the invasion.

President Joe Biden said Tuesday that the United States will provide Ukraine with the most advanced missile systems its leaders have been pleading. In an article published in the New York Times, Biden said the missile systems would enable Ukraine to “hit key targets with greater accuracy.”

US officials, who spoke before Biden’s announcement on condition of anonymity, said Washington would send to Ukraine a small number of high-tech and medium-range missile systems. The missiles can be used to intercept Russian artillery and to eliminate Russian positions in towns where fighting is intense, such as Severodonetsk.

Missile systems will be taken from the US inventory, which will quickly transfer them to Ukraine. Ukrainian forces will also need training in the new systems, which could take at least a week or two.

Severodonetsk, 145 kilometers (90 miles) south of the Russian border, is located in an area that is the last Ukrainian government-controlled enclave in the Luhansk region. Donbas consists of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

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More than 1,500 people have died of various causes since the Russian invasion of Ukraine in late February, Stryuk said. Efforts to evacuate from Severodonetsk were interrupted by the bombing.

“Civilians are dying from direct strikes, split wounds, and under the rubble of destroyed buildings, because most of the population is hiding in basements and shelters,” Strick said.

The mayor said the electricity has been cut, and people need water, food and medicine: “There is food supply for several more days, but the problem is how to distribute it.”

In his nightly video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the situation in Donbass remains “extremely difficult” as Russia has put its army’s “maximum fighting force” there.

At least three people were killed and six wounded in a Russian missile attack on the city of Sloviansk, west of Severodonetsk, Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kirilenko said in a Facebook post on Tuesday. A school was among the many buildings that were damaged.

A crater exploded in the road between two apartment buildings, which were riddled with shrapnel.

The floor and staircase of one of the buildings were stained with blood.

Olina Voitenko, 59, a resident of the area, said she knew of one of the dead, a man whose apartment caught fire in the blast.

Another resident, Mikhailo Samuluk, said the raid took place in the middle of the night. “I was on my couch and suddenly my couch jumped into the air,” he said.


Jurass Kermanu reports from Lviv, and Associated Press writer Lolita C. contributed the role in Washington.


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