Moscow/Kyiv, May 31 (EFE).- Ukrainian forces are trying to repel the advance of Russian troops on the city of Severodonetsk, the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in the Lugansk region along with the nearby city of Lisichansk and where Russia controls most of the town, according to Kyiv.
“The greater part of Severodonetsk is controlled by the Russians, wrote the governor of the Lugansk region, Serhiy Gaidai on his Telegram account in summarizing the day’s fighting, adding however that the city still “is not surrounded.”
In remarks to the British Sky News, Gaidai said that Russian forces control about 70 percent of the urban area and that significant fighting was taking place in the city.
Oleksandr Stryuk, the mayor of the city, previously had told Ukraine’s 1+1 television channel that “the front line has cut the city into two parts,” suggesting that the Russians were in control of about half of Severodonetsk.
“But the city is still defending itself, it’s still Ukrainian and our soldiers are fighting,” he said.
On the other side of the front, the pro-Russian militias of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People’s Republic said that they are continuing the offensive.
On Tuesday morning, separatist leader Leonid Pasechnik told Russia’s official TASS news agency that his troops in control of a third of Severodonetsk, adding that in recent hours Russian troops had made progress on their objective of “liberating” the city.
“In these sectors … the Ukrainian troops number some 10,000 soldiers,” he added.
According to the Ukrainian Military Command, pro-Russian militias are attacking the defensive positions in the city “with mortars, artillery and missiles along the line of contact.”
Gaidai said that almost 100 percent of the city’s critical infrastructure has been destroyed, 90 percent of the homes have been damaged and 60 percent are so extensively wrecked that they cannot be repaired.
In addition, he said “it’s impossible to deliver humanitarian aid to Severodonetsk due to the bombardments, and citizens cannot be evacuated either.”
The governor complained that the Russian army is planning to undertake a “cleansing operation” in Severodonetsk and its environs to eliminate or neutralize any and all resistance.
The Russians “are sending a battalion of soldiers who will move through the surrounding villages. They are moving in teams with big flamethrowers to simply burn our army, along with the civilian population, they don’t care,” he said.
Meanwhile, the situation remains tense in other regions of the country, the Ukrainian command said, reporting mortar attacks in areas near Chernigov and Sumy in northern and northeastern Ukraine, respectively.
In contrast to Severodonetsk, where the Russians have redoubled their efforts, in other directions they have opted to regroup and resupply with the aim of being ready for future offensives, Ukrainian military authorities said.
According to those authorities, this tactic is being seen in the Slobozhansk region, near occupied Liman, and in Sloviansk, one of the Russian army’s key objectives because it, along with Kramatorsk, is the last important city still in Ukrainian hands in the Donetsk region.
The provincial governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, on Tuesday reported three people killed and seven wounded in Russian missile attacks on Sloviansk, to which pro-Russian militias responded by saying that Ukrainian attacks had killed at least two of their number.
“As a result of (Tuesday’s) attack by Ukrainian forces, the number of victims in the Donetsk People’s Republic grew to seven people (in one day): two dead and five wounded,” the military command of the breakaway Donetsk region reported on its Telegram channel.
According to figures released Tuesday by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, since Feb. 24, when Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, 4,074 Ukrainian civilians have died and another 4,826 have been wounded in the fighting.
Meanwhile, the Russian Defense Ministry on Tuesday reported finding the bodies of 152 Ukrainian combatants in a “refrigerated van” within the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol in southeastern Ukraine.