The city of Severodonetsk, in eastern Ukraine, is “completely under Russian occupation”, according to a statement from a military official in the city on Saturday (25), after months of exhausting and bloody fighting.
“You [russos] appointed a commander. But the city is so destroyed that it will be difficult for people to deal with this situation,” said Oleksandr Striuk, head of the military administration.
Regional military officials said on Friday that the last troops in Severodonetsk were ordered to leave as it was impossible to continue defending their positions. This effectively ceded the city to Russia and brought the Luhansk region almost entirely under Russian control.
Severodonetsk was one of the last major Ukrainian strongholds in the area. Serhiy Hayday, a senior military commander in the east of the country, said the military made the decision to evacuate “because the death toll in unfortified territories can grow every day”.
“Currently, there is no possibility to leave the city, people can try to leave only in the direction of the occupied territory. We will facilitate the evacuation, but so far there is no such opportunity,” Striuk said.
Several hundred civilians took shelter at the Azot chemical plant and rejected requests to leave. Earlier on Saturday, Hayday said Russian forces were still bombing the plant.
“Civilians are leaving the territory of the Azot factory. People spent almost 3 months in basements, shelters. Right now, they need physical and psychological help,” added Striuk.
Avalanche of missile attacks
Ukraine has been hit by an avalanche of missile attacks, with official reports estimating that Russia has fired more than 40 missiles at targets in the country in the last 24 hours.
The Ukrainian Army General Staff said there was more shelling around Kharkiv, and the Russians also tried to launch an attack near the Uda settlement, but “were decisively suppressed by our soldiers”.
North of Sloviansk, the Ukrainian military reported continued battles in areas that had been on the front lines for months. The Russians used artillery and air strikes against Ukrainian positions about 20 kilometers north of the city.
On the southern front, the Ukrainian military reported that a Russian attack to regain previously lost ground at Kherson had been repulsed. Ukrainian forces are advancing on Kherson, Mykolaiv region, “with limited success”.
Mykolaiv City Mayor Oleksandr Sienkevyck reported explosions overnight. On Friday, he urged “anyone who wants to stay alive to leave the city” and said he was being “disarmed every day”, with 111 people dead so far.
Explosions were also reported by the regional military administration in Zhytomyr in central Ukraine, killing one soldier and wounding another, although the town’s mayor said Zhytomyr itself “was not hit”.
The head of the military administration said that “about 10 missiles” were shot down by Ukrainian defenders. Regional officials in Lviv, western Ukraine, also reported missile attacks on military installations.
Offensive continues in eastern Ukraine
Two US officials with direct knowledge of the country’s intelligence assessments said to CNN that Russian forces were gaining the upper hand in eastern Ukraine as they learned from mistakes made during the early stages of their invasion of the country, including better coordination of air and ground attacks, as well as improvements to logistics and supply lines.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian troops in the eastern city of Lysychansk are under increasing pressure from Russian forces that have seized territory south of the city. Hayday said Russian forces tried to enter Lysychansk from the south and surround the city, in addition to an airstrike on the city.
The Ukrainian Army General Staff said Russian efforts to cut off the main route from Bakhmut to Lysychansk are continuing. According to the statement, Ukrainian soldiers stopped the advance of Russian infantry near Volodymyrivka, which is 5 kilometers from the highway.
However, the General Staff acknowledged that the Russians had advanced 1 kilometer as they approached Bakhmut.
The Russian objective appears to be to cut off Ukrainian forces from the Luhansk and Donetsk regions. If they capture Bakhmut, they could stop most efforts to resupply the Ukrainian defenders in Lysychansk and neighboring districts.
Ukraine says attacks were launched from Belarusian airspace
As Ukrainian officials assessed damage from dozens of missile strikes overnight, the Defense Ministry’s Chief Intelligence Directorate said many of the missiles were fired from Belarusian airspace.
The Directorate said that “the missile attacks from the territory of Belarus are a large-scale provocation by the Russian Federation to further involve Belarus in the war against Ukraine”.
The statement said that “Russian bombers directly hit the territory of Belarus. Six Tu-22M3 aircraft were involved, which launched 12 Kh-22 cruise missiles”.
The Directorate stressed that the missiles were launched from the airspace above Petrikov district in southern Belarus. “After launching the missiles, they returned to Shaikovka airfield in Russia. The attack was launched in the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions.”
“This is the first case of an air strike on Ukraine directly from the territory of Belarus,” the Directory said. THE CNN cannot confirm this claim.
Ukraine’s air force command underscored the Defense Ministry’s statements, saying on its Facebook page that “more than fifty missiles of various types were fired: air, sea and land”.
There has been no word from the Belarusian government about the alleged use of its airspace for the latest attacks on Ukraine.
Ukraine denies Russian attack on Polish ‘mercenaries’
A Russian missile hit the town of Kostiantynivka in Donetsk on Saturday, according to local officials and the Russian Defense Ministry.
But the two sides’ versions of the target differ. Oleksii Roslov, head of Kostiantynivka’s military civil administration, said a “critical infrastructure object was hit”, affecting gas supplies and killing one person.
The Russian Defense Ministry published a short video of the missile attack, saying it targeted Polish mercenaries at Megatex’s Kostiantynivka factory, and killed up to 80 of them, as well as rocket launchers.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov said that “the enemy continues to suffer significant losses. Up to 80 Polish mercenaries, 20 armored fighting vehicles and eight Grad multiple-launch rocket systems were destroyed as a result of Russian Aerospace Forces high-precision weapons attacks on the buildings of the Megatex zinc factory.”
Oleksii Roslov denied the allegation. “There were no soldiers there. A lot of people were there after the attack, everyone can confirm that there was no military,” Roslov said. to CNN .
About 45,000 people remain in the city, which is some distance from the front lines.
CNN’s Jim Sciutto, Sebastian Shukla and Joshua Berlinger contributed to this story.
Source: CNN Brasil