KRAMATORSK, Ukraine ( Associated Press) — Moscow-backed separatists stormed eastern Ukraine’s industrial Donbass region on Friday, declaring capture of a rail link, raising fears that besieged cities in the region would face similar attacks. . Mariupol in the weeks before the port was captured.
Ukrainian authorities have reiterated their demand for the West to send them more modern weapons. Without it, they say, the Ukrainian military would not be able to stop Russia’s invasion.
Fighting was concentrated in two important cities on Friday: Sviairodonetsk and neighboring Lischansk. They are the last areas of Ukrainian control in Luhansk, one of the two provinces that make up Donbass and where Russian-backed separatists have controlled part of the region for eight years.
The governor of the Luhansk region warned that Ukrainian troops may have to withdraw from Sviarodonetsk to avoid encirclement. But he predicted the Ukrainian victory in the end. “As analysts predict, the Russians will not be able to capture the Luhansk region in the next few days,” Serhiy Haidai wrote on Telegram on Friday. “We will have sufficient forces and means to defend ourselves.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesinsky also adopted a defiant stance. In his speech late on Friday, he said that “if the occupiers think that Lyman or Sviairodonetsk will be theirs, they are mistaken. Donbass will be Ukrainian.”
For now, the mayor of Sivierodonetsk, Oleksandr Striuk, told The Associated Press that “the city is being systematically destroyed: 90% of the city’s buildings have been damaged.”
Striuk said that the scene in Sviairodonetsk was reminiscent of the fighting for Mariupol in Donetsk, another province of Donbass. The port city, now in ruins, came under relentless attack by Russian forces during a nearly three-month siege that ended last week when Russia announced it had captured it. It is feared that more than 20,000 civilian residents have died.
Before the war, Sivierodonetsk had about 100,000 inhabitants. Streak said between 12,000 and 13,000 were hiding in shelters in the city largely cut off from the rest of Ukraine. At least 1,500 people have died as a result of the 93-day fighting in Sivierodonetsk.
The mayor said the figure included those killed by artillery fire or fires caused by Russian missiles, as well as those killed by shrapnel wounds, untreated illnesses, lack of medicines or trapped under rubble.
The streak said Friday there was an attack in the northeastern region of the city, where Russian reconnaissance and sabotage groups tried to capture the Mir Hotel and its surrounding areas.
Clues to Russia’s strategy in Donbass can be taken from Mariupol, where Moscow continues to tighten its control with measures including state-controlled broadcasting and teaching programs, according to an analysis by the Institute for War Studies, a Washington-based think tank .
General Philip Breedlove, former head of the US European Command for NATO, said during a panel hosted by the Washington-based Middle East Institute on Friday that Russia “appears to be realizing its objectives, and there is concern that it may be trying to consolidate and strengthen its position”. trying to.” They have control over the regions instead of trying to expand them.”
However, the continued attacks on Donbass also indicate Russia’s desire to expand its dominance in the region. Ukrainian analysts said the Russian military has taken advantage of the delay in Western arms shipments to accelerate its offensive in the region.
However, given Russia’s potential to reduce its arsenal, such an aggressive push may backfire. Military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said Russia was deploying 50-year-old T-62 tanks, “meaning the world’s second most powerful army has run out of modern equipment.”
Russian-backed rebels said on Friday they had taken control of Lyman, a Donetsk rail hub north of two other major cities that are still under Ukrainian control. Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Erestovich acknowledged that losses occurred on Thursday night, although a spokesman for the Ukrainian Defense Ministry said on Friday that their troops fought Russian attempts to push them out completely.
Ukraine’s hopes of halting the Russian advance have faded, with Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba urging Western countries to send heavy weapons to Ukraine, saying it is the only area in which Russia has a clear advantage.
“Without artillery, without multiple launch rocket systems, we will not be able to repel them,” he said.