Russia ‘escalates’ attacks in eastern Ukraine, regional governor says

Fighting has intensified in Ukraine’s Luhansk region as Russian forces attempt to take the largest city in the area still under Ukrainian control, officials said.

Kremlin troops have their sights on Sievierodonetsk, which lies about 90 miles from the Russian border on the strategically important Siverskiy Donetsk River.

In recent weeks, Kremlin troops have shelled it with heavy artillery, leaving much of the city in ruins.

“About 90 percent of the buildings have been damaged. More than two-thirds of the city’s housing stock has been completely destroyed. There is no telecommunications. There is constant shelling,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.

“Conquering Sievierodonetsk is a fundamental task for the occupiers… We are doing everything we can to sustain this advance,” he added.

Fighting in the city has intensified, according to the region’s governor Serhiy Gaidai, who described the Russian attacks as “extremely escalated”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky meeting with military personnel during his visit to the Kharkov . region

(EPA)

Mr Gaidai said it was impossible to calculate casualties because the shelling was so persistent, adding that Russian troops have dug in at a hotel on the northern outskirts of the city.

“They can’t go further into the city and take in victims, but we are not able to push them out of the hotel at the moment,” he said.

In its latest briefing paper, the Institute for the Study of War said the Russians had failed to encircle Sievierodonetsk and suffered “terrible casualties.”

It also said that the Ukrainian army and the local Ukrainian population suffered heavy losses.

A view shows buildings damaged by a Russian military attack as the Russian attack on Ukraine continues, in the city of Bakhmut, in the Donetsk region

(REUTERS)

The situation in nearby Lysychansk, another important city in Ukraine in Luhansk, is also fraught, with shells continuing to rain on the buildings.

As Russia tried to increase its steady gains in the Donbas, Ukrainian President Zelensky visited the northeastern city of Kharkov on Sunday. A few weeks ago, his country’s military managed to push the invading troops away from their positions there.

“I feel boundless pride in our defenders. Every day, at the risk of their lives, they fight for the freedom of Ukraine,” he said.

However, like other Ukrainian cities, long-range Russian bombing is taking its toll. More than 2,000 apartment buildings have been damaged, regional governor Oleh Syniehubov said.

A damaged building in Bakhmut, in the Donetsk . region

(REUTERS)

The Ukrainian army recently recaptured another 5 percent of the region, but Russian forces control about 30 percent of the territory, Mr Syniehubov added.

His comments came when Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated that Moscow’s “unreserved priority” was to take Ukraine’s Donbas region, which consists of the eastern provinces of Donetsk and Luhansk. Shortly before Vladimir Putin launched the invasion on February 24, the Kremlin recognized them as breakaway states.

The Ukrainian government hopes to receive more long-range weapons from the west to try to block Russia’s advance into the Donbas.

As a sign that EU unity against Russian aggression could come under pressure, the bloc has been unable to agree to a Russian oil embargo. Negotiations continue on Monday.

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