KYIV, UKRAINE (AFP) – Fighting between Russian and Ukrainian forces has reached the limits of the key eastern Ukraine city of Sievierodonetsk, the regional governor said on Wednesday (May 25), describing the combat as “very difficult”.
“Russian troops have advanced far enough that they can already fire mortars” on the city, Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai 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.
Sievierodonetsk, 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,” Mr Gaidai said, adding that he believes Russia’s goal is to “capture the Luhansk region no matter what cost”.
A representative of Moscow-backed separatist fighters, who have controlled regions of Luhansk since 2014, said that Sievierodonetsk was “operationally surrounded” by rebel troops and Russian forces.
“It’s only possible to exit from Sievierodonetsk via one bridge, which is also under the control of our firepower,” the separatist official told Russia’s Interfax news agency.