Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Live Updates

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

LYSYCHANSK, Ukraine – All bridges connecting the twin Ukrainian cities of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk are destroyed and street-to-street fighting rages on, leaving thousands of civilians largely trapped in one of the deadliest battles of the war to date.

Russia has targeted the region since the start of its full-scale invasion in February, but as it has limited its offensive to the resource-rich eastern region of Donbas, Russian commanders have steadily redirected more forces to the small pocket of land in and around Sievierodonetsk.

It is estimated that there are still 10,000 people in the city of Sievierodonetsk, several hundred of whom are believed to be locked in bunkers under a chemical plant which is under near-constant bombardment. The Ukrainian government said this week that any large-scale evacuation of the city is now impossible. Russia promised to create a humanitarian corridor, but previous demands failed to materialize and Russian forces directed their fire at places where civilians were congregating to flee.

Heavy fighting continued Thursday in Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk. A Russian airstrike hit central Lysychansk on Thursday morning, killing at least one person, local authorities said.

For most of the day, Russian and Ukrainian artillery fired from opposite banks of the Siversky Donets River, which separates the two towns. A group of Ukrainian soldiers, taking a break from fighting in the basement of a Soviet-style apartment, asked New York Times reporters when Western rocket artillery systems would arrive and said they would. needed a lot.

On the front line as Russian artillery pounded the town of Lysychansk, “an hour feels like a whole day,” one soldier said.

In Sievierodonetsk, the residents of the ruined city are now largely alone. Those who have come out recently describe heartbreaking scenes.

Credit…Tyler Hicks/The New York Times

Serhiy Haidai, the head of Lugansk’s military administration, said the shelling was now so intense that “people can’t stand it in the shelters any longer – their psychological state is on the brink”.

Russia does not control the city, he said, and pitched battles are going on from house to house. Meanwhile, Russian forces continue to devastate villages around the city, Haidai said.

“The destruction of the residential sector is catastrophic,” he said. Residents of the town reported they lacked food and drinking water – describing similar scenes to those that have unfolded in Mariupol and many other towns on the Eastern Front over the past four months.

Another 60,000 civilians are thought to still live in Lysychansk, under Ukrainian control. But the constant Russian bombardment of the area as Russia tries to surround Ukrainian forces has made any large-scale evacuation an extremely difficult proposition.

Much of the roughly 50,000 to 60,000 artillery rounds Russia unleashes every day are concentrated in this last part of Ukrainian-controlled Luhansk province.

The type of convoy needed for a large-scale evacuation would most likely require coordination between Russia and Ukraine overseen by international mediators. There has been no public suggestion that such a plan is being discussed. In Lysychansk, volunteers, in a magma of vehicles, evacuate dozens of civilians every day.

Ukraine’s top military commander Valerii Zaluzhnyi said in a statement that Russia has focused its efforts on this battle. In addition to non-stop artillery barrages, he said, Moscow is directing airstrikes and using multiple rocket-launching systems to annihilate everything in its path. Russian forces are trying to advance along nine separate fronts from the north, east and south.

Despite Russia’s superior arsenal, the Ukrainians were able to prevent Moscow’s forces from completing the encirclement of the area. General Zaluzhnyi said they would continue to fight.

Sievierodonetsk, he said, is a key point in the defensive system of the Luhansk region. “The city cannot be considered anything less than that,” he said.

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