May 31 (UPI) — The Russian military on Tuesday continued to advance in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, with officials saying that troops now control about half of the municipality.
Sievierodonetsk city official Oleksandr Stryuk said that evacuations had to be halted on Tuesday because of the Russian advances after forces broke through Ukrainian defenses.
Russian troops have been fighting to make the new advances in Sievierodonetsk for days.
“Unfortunately, the front line has cut the city into two halves, but the city is still defending [itself], the city is still Ukrainian,” Stryuk said, according to The Guardian.
“The evacuation is suspended. Unfortunately, it’s impossible [to evacuate civilians] because street fighting is continuing.”
If Russia captures Sievierodonetsk, Moscow would hold nearly all of the easternmost Luhansk region, which comprises the Donbas region with Donetsk.
In recent days, Russian forces have overrun the towns of Svitlodarsk and Lyman and made continued advances in Moscow’s goal of taking the entire Donbas region from Ukraine, as it did with Crimea almost a decade ago.
In the southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which Russia captured after three months of intense fighting, officials said that a Russian ship carrying about 2,500 tons of “hot-rolled sheets” of steel left docks for the first time since the takeover.
The shipment, bound for Russia, left after Ukrainian officials complained that Moscow was looting Ukrainian products such as grains and metals to be used in Russia.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said he’s scheduled to meet with Turkish leaders in Turkey next week in hopes of creating a safe corridor for Ukrainian grain vessels to avert a food crisis.
Ukraine, one of the world’s largest suppliers of grains, said Russia has been blocking shipments of corn, wheat, sunflower seeds, barley and oats.