KRAMATorsk, Ukraine (Associated Press) – Russian forces pushed into a major city in eastern Ukraine and clashed with Kyiv forces on Monday in a battle the mayor said left the city “totally destroyed” and forced tens of thousands from their homes.
Military analysts described the battle as part of a race against time for the Kremlin, which they said wanted to complete its control of the Donbass industrial zone before the arrival of more Western weapons to bolster Ukraine’s defenses. Weapons from the West helped Kyiv’s forces thwart a Russian advance in the capital In the first weeks of the war. This failure forced Moscow to withdraw, regroup and pursue the more limited goal of capturing Donbass, where Moscow-backed separatists had already held swathes of territory and been fighting Ukrainian forces for eight years.
In recent days, the fighting has focused on Severodonetsk in a battle that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described as “indescribably difficult”. Relentless Russian artillery shells destroyed vital infrastructure and damaged 90% of buildings, and electricity and communications were largely cut off for a city that was once home to 100,000 people.
“The death toll is rising by the hour, but we are unable to count the dead and wounded amid the street fighting,” Mayor Oleksandr Strick told The Associated Press in a phone interview, adding that Moscow’s forces advanced a few more blocks toward the area. Town centre.
“The city was completely destroyed,” he added, with only 12,000 to 13,000 residents remaining, hiding in cellars and bunkers to escape Russian bombardment—a situation reminiscent of the siege of Mariupol that trapped the population and made some of the worst. suffering of war.
While tens of thousands are believed to have died in Mariupol, Stryuk estimated that 1,500 civilians have died in his city since the war began, from Russian attacks as well as from harsh conditions, including lack of medicine or medical treatment.
Ukraine’s military said Russian forces have reinforced their positions in the northeastern and southeastern suburbs of Severodonetsk, 145 kilometers (90 miles) south of the Russian border in an area that is the last Ukrainian government-controlled pocket in Luhansk province.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Hayday said the Russians were also rushing towards nearby Lysekhansk. He said that two civilians were killed and five others wounded in the latest Russian bombing. Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk are located on both sides of the strategically important Siverskiy Donetsk River.
Ukrainian military analyst Oli Zhdanov said that the Russian advance in Severodonetsk and Lysichansk was part of a comprehensive campaign – carried out without regard for personnel and equipment losses.
“There is an impression that Russia has set a goal to seize Donbass at any cost,” said Zhdanov. “The Kremlin believes that it cannot waste time and should use the last opportunity to expand the territory controlled by the separatists because the arrival of Western weapons into Ukraine may make this impossible.”
The Ukrainians hope they can keep the Russians out long enough until they run out of power – or more Western weapons arrive. But Mykola Sonhorovsky, a military expert at the Kyiv-based Razumkov Research Center, said it takes a long time for those to arrive — given the Russians have an opportunity.
Russian pressure also continued in the south on Monday. Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said artillery shelling on a shipyard in the southern port of Mykolaiv destroyed Ukrainian armored vehicles parked there.
In the Kherson region, the deputy head of the Russian-appointed regional administration Kirill Strimosov told the Russian state news agency TASS that grain from last year’s harvest is being delivered to Russian buyers, adding that “it is clear that there is a lot of grain here.” Ukraine accused Russia By looting grain from territory controlled by its forces, the United States claimed that Moscow was threatening the global food supply to prevent Ukraine from exporting its crop.
Zelensky was due to address a gathering of European Union leaders Later on Monday, they sought to show their solidarity with Ukraine despite divisions over whether Russian oil would be targeted in a new series of sanctions. The Ukrainian leader has repeatedly demanded that the European Union target Russia’s lucrative energy sector and deprive Moscow of billions of dollars a day in supply payments.
Karmanau reported from Lviv. Associated Press journalists around the world contributed to this report.
Follow the Associated Press’ coverage of the Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
“Writer. Evil travel maven. Avid creator. Proud beer expert. Music lover. Explorer.”