Jun 9, 2022 - World

Zelensky: Fate of eastern Ukraine tied to fighting in Severodonetsk

President Volodymyr Zelensky. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday the "fierce" battle for the city of Severodonetsk was probably one of the most difficult of the war, and its outcome will decide the fate of eastern Ukraine.

Why it matters: Severodonetsk is the last remaining major city in the Luhansk region of the Donbas under Ukrainian control.

State of play: The regional governor and British intelligence officials said last week that the Russian military had seized most of Severodonetsk.

  • Luhansk region Gov. Serhiy Haidai told local media Wednesday that Ukrainian forces "control only the outskirts" of Severodonetsk and as fighting continued, it "is impossible to say the Russians completely control the city."
  • Russia's military was attempting assaults on Ukrainian forces from three directions Wednesday, but Ukraine's defenses were holding and the situation was unlikely to change any time soon, according to a U.K. Ministry of Defense intelligence report.

The big picture: Russia's military failed to take Kyiv, and President Vladimir Putin is now moving toward his goal of seizing the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, Axios' Dave Lawler writes.

  • Russian forces are turning towns to rubble before taking them, per Lawler. Ukraine's best-trained forces, which are concentrated in the Donbas, are taking heavy casualties.

What they're saying: "In many ways, the fate of the Donbas is being decided there," Zelensky said in his nightly address, noting that Severodonetsk is the epicenter of the fight.

  • "We defend our positions, inflict significant losses on the enemy. This is a very fierce battle, very difficult. Probably one of the most difficult throughout this war," he added.
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