Jun 2, 2022 - World

Russian forces have seized most of key Ukrainian city Severodonetsk, officials say

Smoke rises in the city of Severodonetsk during heavy fightings between Ukrainian and Russian troops at eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on May 30.

Smoke rises in the city of Severodonetsk in the Donbas, eastern Ukraine, during heavy battles between Ukrainian and Russian forces on Monday. Photo: Aris Messinis/AFP via Getty Images

Russian forces have taken over most of Severodonetsk, the last remaining major city in the Luhansk region of the Donbas under Ukrainian control, according to the regional governor and British intelligence officials.

What's happening: Luhansk region Gov. Serhiy Haidai told Reuters Ukrainian forces were holding less than a fifth of the key city in eastern Ukraine on the 99th day of Russia's invasion, and he expressed concern for civilians sheltering from Russian shelling under a chemical plant that may be storing toxic substances.

  • They're in "strong Soviet-era" bunkers beneath the privately owned Azot chemical plant, but he said "we can't know 100% if any chemicals are left," noting a Russian airstrike on Tuesday hit a nitric acid tank in Severodonetsk that released a large, pink cloud.

The big picture: The U.K. Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update on Thursday that although Russia's military had seized most of Severodonetsk, the main road into the city "likely remains under the control of Ukrainian forces," though Putin's army was continuing to "make steady local gains."

By the numbers: Haidai told Reuters that Russian forces controlled 70% of Severodonetsk, 10-15% was a "gray zone," and Ukrainian troops held the rest of the city.

What to watch: "Crossing the Siverskyy Donets River — which is a natural barrier to its axis of advance — is vital for Russian forces as they source Luhansk Oblast and prepare to switch focus to Donestk Oblast," the U.K. Defense Ministry said.

  • Possible crossing sites include between Severodonetsk and the neighboring town of Lysychanks and the near, recently captured Lyman.
  • "In both locations, the river line likely remains controlled by Ukrainian forces, who have destroyed existing bridges," the Defense Ministry notes.
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