Weeks of intense fighting have finally led to a full Russian occupation of the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, according to the local mayor on Saturday. Russian forces regain control and force Ukrainian defenders to retreat to the city which has been completely destroyed.
“The Russians have completely occupied Severodnetsk, our forces have retreated to more prepared positions,” Severodnetsk Mayor Alexander Stryk said in a TV interview on Saturday.
Ukrainian forces moved south to the city of Lisichansk, which is a few miles away and south of the Siversky Donets River. Russian forces are expected to continue fighting in Lisichansk to gain further land in the Luhansk region. Russian army and pro-Russian rebels have already started trekking to Lisichansk BBC,
It comes after Ukraine reportedly received shelling from bombers in Belarus, in the western part of Ukraine.
Severodnetsk had a population of 100,000 before the war broke out in February, but many have fled the city since Russia launched an attack on the city. There were hundreds of residents who have taken refuge in the Azot chemical plant. Streak said many people have begun to evacuate the plant, and they will likely need medical attention and psychological support.
“These people have spent almost three months of their lives in basements, in shelters. It’s hard emotionally and physically,” Streak said.
Both Russia and Ukraine have acknowledged that Russia has annexed the Severodnetsk suburb of Sirotyn and also the nearby smaller towns of Voronov and Borivsk.
Zelensky said Russia was trying to break the spirit of its country, as demonstrated by the 45 rockets fired on Ukraine on the last day.
Russia’s occupation means Putin has now occupied almost the entire Luhansk region, in addition to almost all of Donetsk. Taking Lysychansk would be another major step in capturing the entire region, but it is literally an uphill battle as Lysychansk sits on higher ground than Severodonetsk.
On Saturday, bombers flying from Belarus fired missiles at northern and western Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin Petersburg on Saturday met with Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko, after Putin promised to send a nuclear-capable missile to his ally, Russian RBC news outlet reported.
“In the next few months we will give Belarus the strategic Iskander-M missile complex, which can fire both conventional and nuclear ballistic and cruise missiles,” Putin said in the interview.
Prior to the February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russia mobilized troops to the north and east along Ukraine’s borders, while continuing military exercises with Belarus closer to Ukraine’s western border.