Pro-Russian forces ‘close to encircling’ key Ukrainian city

June 23, 2022 12:00 am | Updated 05:41 am IST - Moscow

Massive Russian bombing has turned Luhansk into hell, says regional Governor

Pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine claimed on Wednesday they were close to surrounding Ukrainian forces defending the twin cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk, the site of fierce weeks-long fighting.

An officer in the separatist army of Luhansk — a pro-Russian breakaway region in eastern Ukraine — said their forces surrounded Ukrainian troops in the villages of Hirsk and Zolote, a day after capturing the neighbouring village of Toshkivka.

The three settlements are located a few kilometres outside Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, which Moscow’s forces have been trying to seize for weeks. “Very soon (Ukrainian) groups in Lysychansk and Severodonetsk will also be surrounded,” Andrei Marochko told Russian state TV.

In Zolote and Hirsk “there is a full encirclement of Ukrainian troops”, he added.

Intense fighting for the strategic city of Severodonetsk has raged as Russian forces advance in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.

Meanwhile, Kyiv said “massive" Russian bombardment” has turned Severodonetsk into "hell", while insisting that defenders would hold "as long as necessary".

“The Russian army is massively shelling Lysychansk,” Sergiy Gaiday, Governor of the Lugansk region, wrote on Telegram. “They are just destroying everything there... They destroyed buildings and unfortunately there are casualties."

He later wrote that “it's just hell out there” after four months of shelling in Severodonetsk, across the Donets river — while adding that “our boys are holding their positions and will continue to hold on as long as necessary”.

In a briefing on Wednesday, the Russian Defence Ministry claimed responsibility for a missile strike it said killed a number of Ukrainian troops in southern Mykolaiv. In central Ukrainian city Zaporizhzhia, women were training to use Kalashnikov assault rifles in urban combat as Russian forces edged nearer.

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