Ukraine resisted a Russian ultimatum to surrender Severodonetsk on Wednesday, as enemy forces stormed the ruined eastern city from multiple directions in an attempt to pin the remaining Ukrainian fighters and civilians in an industrial area on the western side of town.
“Our military is holding back the enemy from three sides at once,” regional Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said. “The enemy is advancing because of significant advantage in artillery and people, but the Ukrainian army is holding on to its positions in the city.”
The report came a day after a Russian ultimatum to the city’s last defenders to “surrender or die.”
Authorities said some 500 civilians — including about 40 children — were sheltering alongside Ukrainian troops in the Azot chemical plant, hiding out from a nearly constant barrage of Russian artillery.
Those hiding out in the Azot facility — a Stalin-era ammonia factory — were in a critical situation, Mayor Oleksandr Struyk said, and efforts to resupply them were becoming difficult.
With those reports, the siege of Severodonetsk began to mirror the tragedies of Mariupol, where defenders and residents held out for weeks in the bowels of a steel plant.
But unlike the siege of Mariupol, Ukrainian-controlled Severodonetsk is not yet completely cut off from the rest of Ukrainian territory, Struyk said — despite Russian forces destroying the three bridges connecting the city to Ukrainian-held Lysychansk.
“Ways of connecting with Severodonetsk remain,” he said.
“The escape routes are dangerous, but there are some,” he added on Ukrainian TV.
In total, about 10,000 civilians remain in the city, Struyk said on Wednesday morning.
“We are trying to push the enemy towards the city center … This is an ongoing situation with partial successes and tactical retreats,” Struyk said.
Russian artillery shells fell throughout the region on Wednesday, striking several southern Severodonetsk suburbs, Haidai said on Telegram. Russian troops tried to make advances south of Lysychansk, he said, but were repelled.
Severodonetsk and Lysychansk are the last holdouts for Ukrainian forces in the state of Luhansk, and a crucial impediment to Russia’s stated goal of capturing the eastern industrial district known as the Donbas.
Over 90% of the city has reportedly been destroyed over weeks of Russian artillery bombardment.
With Post wires