Fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces has reached the limits of the key eastern Ukraine city of Severodonetsk, the regional governor said Wednesday, describing the combat as “very difficult.”
“Russian troops have advanced far enough that they can already fire mortars” on the city, Lugansk governor Sergiy Gaiday said in a statement on social media, adding that “yesterday there was already fighting on the outskirts.”
Moscow’s army has plotted a slow but steady course deeper into Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region since withdrawing forces from central and northern regions to consolidate military efforts in the east.
Severodonetsk, with a pre-war population of around 100,000 people, has been under relentless Russian shelling for weeks, and is a among key urban hubs in the industrial Donbas region on Russia’s list of military goals.
“The coming week will be decisive,” Gaiday said, adding that he believed Russia’s goal was to “capture the Lugansk region no matter what cost”.
In a video later Wednesday, he said Russia now controlled “around 95 percent” of the Lugansk region.
“There is a colossal amount of shelling,” he added.
95% of the territory of #Luhansk Oblast has been occupied. The situation in #Donbas is extremely difficult.#Luhansk Oblast continues to hold back the horde which is laying waste to our towns and villages. Shelling is relentless #UkraineRussiaWar pic.twitter.com/N1h1jggS61
— Serhiy Hayday (@serhey_hayday) May 25, 2022
But the Ukrainian authorities were still able to deliver humanitarian aid and organize evacuations from Severodonetsk, he said.
A representative of Moscow-backed separatist fighters, who have controlled regions of Lugansk since 2014, said that Severodonetsk was “operationally surrounded” by rebel troops and Russian forces.
“It’s only possible to exit from Severodonetsk via one bridge, which is also under the control of our firepower,” the separatist official told Russia’s Interfax news agency.