Street fighting escalates as Kiev seeks to retain Siverodonetsk gains

  • Fierce street fighting for the main eastern industrial city
  • Ukrainian troops are outnumbered, will not surrender-Zhelensky
  • East Front under continuous shelling
  • Attempt to evict thousands

KYIV / DRUZHKIVKA, Ukraine, June 7 (Reuters) – Ukrainian troops clashed with Russians on the streets in the ruins of Siverodonetsk on Tuesday. War wars.

The struggle for the small industrial city has evolved into a major war in eastern Ukraine, with Russia concentrating its attacks there in the hope of achieving one of its stated war objectives – the complete capture of the surrounding province of Luhansk on behalf of separatist proxies.

After retreating from almost all cities in the face of Russian progress, Ukrainian forces launched a surprise counter-attack last week, driving the Russians out of part of the city center. Since then, both forces have clashed across the Boulevards, both claiming heavy casualties.

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“Our heroes did not leave their posts in Siverodonetsk,” President Volodymyr Zhelensky said in a video overnight, describing the fierce street fighting in the city. Earlier, he told reporters at a conference that the number of Ukrainians is much higher, but there is still “every chance” to fight.

Prior to Ukraine’s counter-attack, Russia appeared to be on the verge of encircling Ukraine’s garrison in the province of Luhansk, cutting off the main road to the Sivorsky Donetsk and its twin city of Lyczynsk across the Donetsk River.

But following the counter-attack, Zelenskiy paid a surprise visit to Lysychansk on Sunday, personally proving that Kyiv still had an open path to reconsider its troops.

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Ukraine’s Defense Ministry has said Russia is launching troops and equipment in a bid to seize Siverodonetsk. Luhansk Governor Sergei Kaitoi said on Monday that the situation had worsened as Ukrainian security forces pushed back the Russians over the weekend.

Attention

Luhansk and the neighboring province of Donetsk, known as the Donbass, became Russia’s main center, with its forces defeated in the suburbs of Kiev in March and pushed back from the second-largest city, Kharkiv, last month.

Russia has been pushing from three main directions – east, north and south – to encircle the Ukrainians in the Donbass. Russia has made progress, but slowly, failing to deal with a decisive blow or encircle the Ukrainians.

The Ukrainian military said in its nightly update that two civilians had been killed in a Russian shelling attack on the Donbass and that Russian forces had fired on more than 20 communities using artillery and airstrikes.

In the Ukrainian-controlled Trushkivka region of Donetsk, residents were picking up the rubble of houses destroyed by the recent shelling.

“Please help, we need roofing materials, home, there are people without shelter,” Nelya shouted as the roof was torn off outside her house. “My daughter-in-law, she has two small children. She had to cover one of her children with her own body.”

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Nearby, Nadeshta picked up a pink photo album and a kindergarten exercise book for her children from the rubble of her house and placed it on a shelf that somehow stood in the rubble.

“I do not even know where to start. I’m standing here, but I do not know what to do. I started to cry. I calmed down, then cried again.”

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, calling it a “special military operation” to prevent it from being seen as a threat to its security. Ukraine and its Western allies call this an unfounded excuse.

Fixed shelling

Britain’s Ministry of Defense said on Tuesday that Russia was still trying to cut off Siverodonetsk by advancing from the north to Isis and from the south to Bopasna. Russia’s progress from Bobasna has stalled for the past week, while reports of heavy shelling near the Izium suggest that Moscow is preparing a new offensive there.

“Russia must certainly reach a turning point in any of these axes in order to translate tactical gains into operational level success and move towards its political goal of controlling the whole of Donetsk Oblast,” it said.

The Donetsk regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, told Ukrainian television that shelling was continuing in the front lines and that Russia was trying to push the two largest Ukrainian cities in Donetsk, Slovensk and Gramadorsk.

Efforts are underway to evacuate people from several cities, including Slovenesk, and some have been attacked day and night, with about 24,000 residents still a quarter of the population.

Despite the delay, people now understand that it is time to leave, he said.

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Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain exporters, and Western nations accuse Russia of creating the risk of creating a global famine by closing Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

Zhelensky said Kiev was gradually gaining “specific anti-ship systems” and that this was the best way to break the Russian siege on Ukrainian ports.

Moscow denies blame for the food crisis, saying it was caused by Western sanctions.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, walked out of a UN Security Council meeting on Monday, and European Council President Charles Michael addressed a 15 – member body, accusing Moscow of triggering a global food crisis with its occupation of Ukraine. read more

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow would respond to Western supplies of long-range weapons by pushing Ukrainian forces further back from Russian borders.

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Report by Reuters; Written by Peter Groff Gareth Jones Editing by Gareth Jones

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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