June 15 (UPI) — After weeks of fighting, Russia’s military is in control of at least 80% of Severodonetsk, but U.S. military officials warned Wednesday that full Russian control of eastern Ukraine isn’t a “done deal.”
The regional governor of Luhansk, one of two provinces in eastern Ukraine that make up the Donbas, provided an update Wednesday on the city that’s believed to be the largest that’s still under some Ukrainian control.
Russia’s bombing of three main bridges that lead into Severodonetsk has cut off humanitarian supplies and evacuation routes, while pro-Russia separatist fighters warned Ukrainian forces to “surrender or die” there.
Luhansk region Gov. Serhiy Haidai said about 500 civilians, including dozens of children, were still inside the Azot chemical factory in Severodonetsk. Officials were hoping to get them out through a still-to-be negotiated corridor.
U.S. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that despite Russia’s growing control of the Donbas region, its full takeover is “not a done deal.”
“There are no inevitabilities in war. War takes many, many turns. So I wouldn’t say it’s an inevitability,” he said during a news conference at NATO headquarters in Brussels.
“The numbers clearly favor the Russians,” he added.
NATO convened a meeting of all defense ministers to discuss supplying more aid and equipment to Ukraine.
During the two-day meeting, the defense ministers were expected to dedicate more resources for Ukraine — and possibly advance requests from Sweden and Finland to join the defensive alliance.
Milley compared the current fighting to that of World War I — “very slow, a very tough slog.”
“The Russians have run into a lot of problems. They’ve got command and control issues, logistics issues. They’ve got morale issues, leadership issues and a wide variety of other issues,” he said. “And the Russians have suffered tremendous amounts of casualties.”
Russia’s Defense Ministry said forces destroyed an ammunition depot in Ukraine that contained weapons sent by NATO, the United States and other supporting governments.
The United States has contributed billions of dollars worth of aid and equipment for Ukraine over the past three months and, on Wednesday, President Joe Biden pledged another $1 billion during a phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
Ukrainian forces said earlier that a counteroffensive in southern Ukraine has allowed Ukrainian troops to retake control of several areas near the Russian-occupied city of Kherson. They added, though, that a lack of heavy artillery will probably slow plans to retake the city.
“The enemy continues to fight, but our units are gradually forcing him to liberate positions and test the strength of the second and third lines of defense, and in some cases to retreat further,” Ukraine’s southern military command said, according to The New York Times.
Meanwhile, Russia on Wednesday announced that it’s barred almost 30 British journalists, arguing that they’d been associated with Ukraine’s “defense complex” and had spread “false information about Russia.”
“The British journalists included in the list are involved in the deliberate dissemination of false and one-sided information about Russia and events in Ukraine and Donbas,” Russian officials said, according to The Guardian.
In all, 29 British journalists were banned in Russia on Wednesday.