Russian forces now control two-thirds of the key Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, a local official confirmed Saturday, as fighting still raged in its eastern industrial zone.
“The situation remains difficult,” said Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region. “Fighting continues, but unfortunately, most of the city is under Russian control. Some positional battles are taking place in the streets.”
The takeover of Luhansk, which makes up the Donbas along with the neighboring Donetsk region, has become Russia’s primary objective since its forces were repulsed from the capital of Kyiv.
The ongoing battle for Severodonetsk, the last unoccupied city in Luhansk, has become increasingly bloody in recent days.
Ukrainian forces there are fighting “for every house and every street,” Haidai said.
But he pushed back against a report that up to 400 Ukrainian soldiers and 500 civilians holed up in the city’s Azot chemical plant were surrounded by invading troops, calling the rumor “lies disseminated by Russian propagandists.”
Analysts at Britain’s Ministry of Defense said that Russian troops had failed to advance into the south of Severodonetsk, adding that “both sides are likely suffering high numbers of casualties.”
In Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelensky promised that his country is “definitely going to prevail in this war that Russia has started.”
Speaking remotely to delegates at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore, Zelensky said stopping Russian aggression was necessary to protect international order.
“It is on the battlefields of Ukraine that the future rules of this world are being decided, along with the boundaries of the possible,” he declared.
In other developments Saturday:
- Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said that about 10,000 of its soldiers were killed in the first 100 days after the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, the BBC reported.
- European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen met with Zelensky in Kyiv to continue talks on Ukraine’s request to join the European Union. She will reach a decision on whether to recommend Ukraine as a candidate for membership next week, she said.
- Russia issued its first passports to residents of the occupied cities of Melitopol and Kherson, handing out 23 of the documents as part of its continuing “Russification” effort there.
The Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office issued new estimates of the ongoing civilian carnage, the Kyiv Independent reported, finding that at least 287 children have been killed in the war and 492 injured — noting that the figures are expected to rise as fighting grinds on.
Meanwhile, Russia vowed to meet the buildup of NATO forces in Poland with “proportionate” measures.
“A response, as always, will be proportionate and appropriate, intended to neutralize potential threats to the security of the Russian Federation,” said Oleg Tyapkin, a Russian Foreign Ministry official.