June 14 (UPI) — The Russian military on Tuesday was trying to solidify positions in a key city of eastern Ukraine in what’s turned out to be a protracted battle for one of the last major areas of the Donbas that aren’t under Moscow’s full control.
The top official in the Luhansk region — which, combined with Donetsk, forms the Donbas — said Russian forces have destroyed all three bridges leading into battle-scarred Severodonetsk. The targets gave Moscow another advantage in its mission to completely control the city.
Severodonetsk is the last major city in eastern Ukraine that’s still under partial Ukrainian control. A victory by Russian troops would make it easier for them to capture the entire Donbas region — which has been Moscow’s top goal of the war for about two months.
Luhansk region Gov. Serhiy Haidai said Tuesday that Ukrainian fighters are still in control of “part of the city” — but Russia’s attack on the bridges is expected to make it even more difficult for Ukrainian fighters and harder to evacuate civilians.
Estimates of Russia’s control in Severodonetsk and the Donbas vary by source. Moscow has claimed that it controls more than 90% of the region and Ukrainian officials in the Donbas have put the figure in Severodonetsk somewhere between 70% and 80%.
Eduard Basurin, deputy leader of the unrecognized Donetsk People’s Republic’s People’s Militia, said Monday some Ukrainian fighters were trapped in Severodonetsk and they must surrender or die.
The British Defense Ministry said Tuesday that while Russian forces are making net gains in Severodonetsk, they also seem to be making some gains in the Kharkiv sector for the first time in several weeks. Kharkiv is located in northeastern Ukraine and was the focus of a Russian offensive from the start of the war in February to the middle of May.
Ukrainian forces repelled Russian troops and kept control of Kharkiv, which is Ukraine’s second-largest city after the capital Kyiv.
In his nightly address on Monday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his military plans to recapture the cities of Kherson, Melitopol and Mariupol and other territories.
Zelensky also kept up calls for military aid and equipment from the United States and other Western allies. Adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said that getting the hardware could lead to a turning point in the war.
“The partners have it. In sufficient quantities,” he said, according to The New York Times. “And we work every day for the political will to give us these weapons to appear.”
Podolyak said Ukraine’s military needs roughly 300 mobile multiple rocket-launch systems, 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles and about 1,000 drones to match Russia’s military might.