Russia’s military has “absolutely occupied” the important thing Ukrainian metropolis of Severodonetsk after weeks of preventing, its mayor mentioned, as Russian President Vladimir Putin pledged to ship nuclear-capable missiles to Belarus inside months.
Because the conflict enters its fifth month, the seize of Severodonetsk marks an necessary strategic win for Moscow, which is in search of to achieve full management over the east of the nation after failing in its early aims.
The economic hub was the scene of weeks of operating battles earlier than the Ukrainian military started withdrawing its outgunned forces to raised defend the neighbouring metropolis of Lysychansk.
“Town has been absolutely occupied by the Russians,” Mayor Oleksandr Striuk mentioned Saturday (25 June).
A couple of hours earlier, pro-Moscow separatists mentioned Russian troops and their allies had entered Lysychansk, which faces Severodonetsk on excessive floor throughout the Donets river. Its seize would give Russia management of the whole Lugansk area of the Donbas.
A take a look at the change to manage over the past 2 weeks within the space round Lysychans’ok and Severodonetsk.
twelfth June –> twenty sixth June. pic.twitter.com/QLwcu3oUW2
— Ukraine Battle Map (@War_Mapper) June 26, 2022
“Avenue preventing is presently going down,” a consultant of the separatists, Andrei Marochko, mentioned on Telegram, in a declare that would not be independently verified.
Removed from the embattled Donbas, in the meantime, a flurry of Russian missiles was placing targets in northern and western Ukraine.
“Greater than 50 missiles of varied sorts had been fired: air, sea and ground-based,” Ukraine’s air pressure command mentioned Saturday, noting the issue of intercepting Russian fashions such because the Iskander.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, who will deal with G7 leaders on Monday, mentioned cities as distant as Lviv, close to the Polish border, had been struck.
“This confirms … that Ukraine wants extra help with weapons, and that air defence techniques — the trendy techniques which our companions have — shouldn’t be on the websites or in storage, however in Ukraine,” he mentioned in his day by day deal with.
Pull in Belarus
In Saint Petersburg on Saturday, Putin mentioned Russia would ship Iskander-M missiles able to carrying nuclear warheads to Belarus within the coming months, as he acquired Belarusian chief Alexander Lukashenko.
He additionally supplied to improve Belarus’ warplanes to make them able to carrying nuclear weapons, in feedback broadcast on Russian tv.
Putin has referred to nuclear weapons a number of occasions since his nation invaded Ukraine on 24 February, in what the West has seen as a warning to the West to not intervene.
Ukraine mentioned it had come underneath “huge bombardment” Saturday morning from neighbouring Belarus which, though a Russian ally, just isn’t formally concerned within the battle.
Twenty rockets “fired from the territory of Belarus and from the air” focused the village of Desna within the northern Chernigiv area, Ukraine’s northern navy command mentioned.
It mentioned infrastructure was hit, however no casualties had but been reported.
Belarus has supplied logistic help to Moscow since its February 24 invasion, notably within the first few weeks, and like Russia has been focused by Western sanctions.
“At this time’s strike is immediately linked to Kremlin efforts to drag Belarus as a co-belligerent into the conflict in Ukraine,” the Ukrainian intelligence service mentioned.
‘Ukraine can win’
Russia’s weekend breakthrough in Severodonetsk got here on the eve of every week of feverish Western diplomacy, as US President Joe Biden flew to Europe for a G7 summit that begins Sunday, and NATO talks later within the week.
“Ukraine can win and it’ll win, however they want our backing to take action,” mentioned British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in an announcement on the eve of the summit.
“Now just isn’t the time to surrender on Ukraine.”
The Western allies will take inventory of the effectiveness of sanctions imposed thus far towards Moscow, contemplate attainable new help for Ukraine, and start turning their eye to longer-term reconstruction plans.
The European Union supplied a powerful present of help on Thursday when it granted Ukraine candidate standing, though the trail to membership is lengthy.
Evacuating the Azot plant
As within the southern port of Mariupol earlier than it, the battle for Severodonetsk has devastated the town.
On Saturday, Mayor Striuk mentioned civilians had begun to evacuate the Azot chemical plant, the place a number of hundred individuals had been hiding from shelling.
“These individuals have spent nearly three months of their lives in basements, shelters,” he mentioned. “That’s powerful emotionally and bodily.”
They’d now want medical and psychological help, he added.
Professional-Moscow separatists mentioned Russian forces and their allies had taken management of the Azot manufacturing unit and “evacuated” greater than 800 civilians sheltering there.
Since 2014, the primarily Russian-speaking Donbas has been partially underneath the management of pro-Moscow separatists, who arrange self-declared breakaway republics in Lugansk and Donetsk.
‘Ending what they began’
Whereas hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians have fled their houses and their nation for the reason that invasion, most to neighbouring Poland, some foreigners have gone the opposite method to combat.
Russia mentioned Saturday its troops had killed as much as 80 Polish fighters in strikes on a manufacturing unit in Konstantinovka within the Donetsk area, a declare that would not be verified.
Russia has additionally intensified its offensive within the northern metropolis of Kharkiv in current days.
An AFP crew on Saturday noticed a 10-storey administrative constructing within the metropolis centre hit by missiles in a single day, inflicting a hearth however no casualties.
It had already been bombed, prompting one soldier on the scene to notice: “The Russians are ending what they began.”