A Ukrainian official said Russian troops have pushed into the center of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk and continue to shell a chemical plant sheltering hundreds of soldiers and civilians.
Regional governor Serhiy Haidai said Monday on Telegram that Russian troops control about 70% of the city and have pushed Ukrainian forces from the city’s center.
He said the city’s Azot chemical plant, where hundreds of civilians are sheltering, is being “heavily shelled.”
Haidai said about 500 civilians remain on the grounds of the plant and that Ukraine’s military is trying to get them to safety.
Russia says all bridges to the city have been destroyed. Ukrainian officials say there is still another way out of the city but that the route is heavily damaged.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his forces and those from Russia are fighting for “literally every meter” in Sievierodonetsk, while pleading to international partners that Ukraine “needs modern missile defense systems.”
In his latest nightly video message, Zelenskyy said Russia’s “key tactical goal” has not changed, with Russian forces also pushing toward Lysychansk, Bakhmut, Slovyansk, to the west and southwest of Sievierodonetsk.
Zelenskyy’s adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, tweeted Monday that “to end the war we need heavy weapons parity.” He listed several categories of weapons, including 1,000 howitzers, 300 multiple launch rocket systems, 500 tanks, 2,000 armored vehicles and 1,000 drones.
“Contact Group of Defense Ministers meeting is held in Brussels on June 15,” Podolyak said. “We are waiting for a decision.”
U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is convening the meeting at NATO headquarters. A virtual meeting of the group last month drew representatives from 47 countries, NATO and the European Union.
Austin said after the May talks that the group was “intensifying our efforts” and working to deepen coordination with Ukraine “so that Ukraine can sustain and strengthen its battlefield operations.”
Britain’s defense ministry said Monday that in recent days the battle around Sievierodonetsk “has continued to rage.”
The ministry said Russia’s ability to carry out river crossing operations will likely be one of the most important factors in the war in the coming months.
“To achieve success in the current operational phase of its Donbas offensive, Russia is either going to have to complete ambitious flanking actions, or conduct assault river crossings,” it said.
Russia claims it already controls 97% of the Luhansk province where Sievierodonetsk is located. But capturing the industrial city of Sievierodonetsk, with a prewar population of 100,000, remains crucial to Moscow’s broader goal of controlling the eastern Donbas region, which encompasses the Luhansk and Donetsk provinces.
Russia seized Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014 and Kyiv’s forces have been fighting pro-Russian separatists in the Donbas region since then.
Leonid Pasechnik, the head of the separatist-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, acknowledged, “Sievierodonetsk is not completely 100% liberated. So, it’s impossible to call the situation calm in Sievierodonetsk; that it is completely ours.”