The ukrainian army affirmed this Sunday that he managed to stop russian attacks near the city of Severodonetsk, in the east of the country, the scene of intense fighting for weeks within this war that, according to NATOcould extend for “years”.
“Our units managed to stop the assault in the Toshkivka region,” the Ukrainian military stated on Facebook. “The enemy withdrew,” they added.
Sergei Gaidai, governor of Lugansk, the region in which Severodonetsk is located, described as “lies” the statements according to which Russia controls the entire town. “It’s true that they control most of the city, but not completely,” he said.
In Severodonetsk there are more than 500 civilians, including 38 children, who have taken refuge in a chemical plant, according to Gaidai. The plant has again been affected by bombing in recent hours, according to the governor.
For several days, attempts have been made to establish a humanitarian corridor to evacuate them, but it has not yet been possible.
From Moscow, the Russian Ministry of Defense affirmed on Sunday that “the offensive against Severodonetsk is carried out successfully.”
“People’s militia units of the Lugansk People’s Republic, supported by the Russian armed forces, liberated the town of Metolkin”, southeast of Severodonetsk, the ministry explained to the press.
He also claimed to have hit a factory in Mikolaiv (south) that stored cruiser missiles and to have destroyed “ten 155mm howitzers and up to twenty armored vehicles supplied to the kyiv regime by the West in the last ten days.”
The claims could not be independently verified.
“There is no safe place”
Having failed in its attempt to seize kyiv at the start of the offensive at the end of February, Russia’s goal now appears to be to fully take control of the Donbas mining basin, made up of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions. Since 2014, this region has been partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists supported by Moscow.
“There is no safe place,” the governor admitted in an interview with AFP from Lysychansk, in the Luhansk region. The Russians “bomb our positions 24 hours a day,” he described.
“An expression says: you have to prepare for the worst and the best will come on its own,” says Gaidai. “Of course we have to prepare,” reiterated the official, who fears that the Russians will surround the city and cut off the roads that guarantee supplies.
In the city everything and everyone seems to be preparing for street fighting: the soldiers dig holes and put up barbed wire, the police place burnt-out cars to slow down traffic and many inhabitants who were still in the city finally decide to leave.
“We drop everything and go. No one can survive such an attack,” said Alla Bor, a history teacher.
“We will not give the south to anyone”
This Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky showed the determination to continue resisting in the south, after a visit to the cities of Mikolaiv and Odessa on Saturday.
Mikolaiv, which had half a million inhabitants before the war, is still under Ukrainian control, but it is close to Kherson, a region practically occupied by the Russians.
Furthermore, it is located on the road to Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port, some 130 km to the southwest, where millions of tons of Ukrainian grain are blocked.
“We will not give the south to anyone, we will take everything back, the sea will be Ukrainian and it will be safe,” Zelensky said, in a video posted on Telegram after returning to kyiv.
However, his optimism collided with the gloomy outlook outlined by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, who stated, in an interview published this Sunday by the German newspaper Bild, that the war could last “years” and therefore the countries Westerners must anticipate lasting support for Ukraine.
“We must not falter in our support for Ukraine, even if the costs are high. Not only in terms of military support, but also because of rising energy and food prices,” he said.
Russia this week reduced the flow of gas to Western Europe citing technical problems. Germany, at the forefront, announced emergency measures on Sunday to secure its energy supply and these will mean turning more to coal.
“It is bitter, but it is essential to reduce gas consumption,” declared the Minister of the Economy, the environmentalist Robert Habeck, in a statement. The German coalition government promised to abandon the use of coal before 2030.
Meanwhile, Qatar announced that the Italian group ENI was joining the French company TotalEnergies in the North Field East project, whose objective is to increase the production of liquefied natural gas in the Gulf country by 60% by 2027.