LYSSYTCHANSK | The Russians continue to advance towards Lyssychansk, a strategic industrial city in eastern Ukraine that their artillery “completely destroyed”, Ukrainian officials said on Wednesday, on the eve of a European summit where Kyiv hopes to obtain official candidate status. to the EU.
“The Russians are approaching Lysytchansk, taking a foothold in neighboring towns and bombarding the city with their planes,” Sergei Gaïdaï, the governor of the Lugansk region, epicenter of the conflict in recent weeks, said in the morning on Telegram. /p>
“The Russian army is (also) pounding Lysytchansk with its artillery and tanks,” he added. If the Ukrainians still control the city, the deluge of Russian fire “destroyed everything”, he had declared a few hours earlier.
Just on the other side of the river Donets, impassable river since the bridges were destroyed there “the fighting continues in the streets” of Severodonetsk, he stressed.
The Ukrainian resistance pocket around Lysychansk and Severodonetsk is the only one still eluding Russian forces in the Luhansk region, where heavy artillery fighting has been going on for weeks.
Bombarded by the Russians for decades weeks, Severodonetsk is a key step in their plan to conquer the entirety of Donbass, a basin of mainly Russian-speaking eastern Ukraine and partly held by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
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On the spot, “it's hell”, estimates the Governor Gaïdaï, but “our men are holding their positions and will continue to do so as much as necessary”.
“The Russians are completely destroying the houses, right down to the foundations, with their artillery,” city administration chief Oleksandr Stryuk told Ukrainian television on Wednesday, estimating that there are “7 out of 8,000 inhabitants” left. in this industrial locality which had about 100,000 before the war.
“No one can survive”
At the diplomatic level, in Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in addition to demanding more deliveries of heavy weapons to his Western allies, is working to ensure that the 27 countries of the European Union will grant the Ukraine official EU candidate status on Thursday at a summit scheduled in Luxembourg.
His optimism was bolstered by comments from French European Affairs Minister Clément Beaune, whose country holds the presidency rotating body of the Council of the EU and who indicated that a “total consensus” between the Twenty-Seven had emerged on Tuesday on this issue during a meeting with his counterparts in Luxembourg.
On Tuesday, the tone rose between Moscow and an EU member, Lithuania, after this former Soviet republic imposed restrictions on the rail transit of goods hit by European sanctions against Russia in the direction of Kaliningrad, an enclave Russian on the Baltic.
“Hostile acts”, ruled Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of the Russian Security Council, during a visit to the site. “Appropriate measures” will be “adopted soon” in retaliation, and will have “serious negative consequences for the people of Lithuania”, he promised.
In terms of armaments, Kyiv welcomed on Tuesday the arrival of German self-propelled guns Panzerhaubitze 2000 which complete its arsenal.
In Donbass (east), the main front line with the south, since the withdrawal of Russian forces from around Kyiv at the end of March, the Russians now “control” the village of Tochkivka, a few kilometers from Severodonetsk and Lyssytchansk, had recognized Tuesday the head of the Severodonetsk district, Roman Vlasenko.
After the bombing of Lysytchansk last week, Alla Bor, a history teacher, decided to flee with her son-in-law and her grandson. “I got scared. We drop everything and leave. No one can survive such a strike,” she told AFP journalists.
“We gave up everything, we left our house. We left our dog with food. It's inhuman, but what can we do?” she laments.
Refusal to evacuate
A team from the AFP saw Ukrainian soldiers digging a trench to serve as a firing post in a street in central Lysychansk and erecting barricades with barbed wire and branches.
“Many locals who remained are waiting for the Russian world,” says Jaconda, alluding to Russian President Vladimir Putin's desire to restore Russian influence in regions bordering Russia.
In Severodonetsk, “fighting is raging around the industrial zone” where, according to the local authorities, 568 people including 38 children – mainly employees and their families – are now taking refuge inside the Azot factory, according to the head of the Severodonetsk district, Roman Vlasenko.
They refuse to evacuate, according to Mr. Gaïdaï, who assured that they receive food, water and some basic medicines. According to him, “they will be able to evacuate if there is an agreement at the highest level” between belligerents, with “a ceasefire and a clearly defined route”.
The Ukrainian president urged his army to “hold on”, judging that the outcome of the war would depend on its resistance and ability to hold back the Russian army and inflict casualties on it.
In the large city of Kharkiv (northeast), Governor Oleg Synegoubov announced on his Telegram channel that 15 people, including an eight-year-old child, were killed on Tuesday and 16 injured under artillery fire Russian.
Several towns in Donbass still under the control of Kyiv are preparing for a new advance of Russian troops, such as Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, east of Severodonetsk.
Tuesday evening in Washington, a spokesman for the White House, John Kirby, also deemed it “appalling” that Moscow was talking about the possibility of imposing the death penalty on two captured Americans. ed by Russia in Ukraine, and confirmed that a second US national was killed in action in that country.