Russian forces in eastern Ukraine have seized the city center of Lyman Railway Hub and besieged much of the city of Siviarodonetsk, Ukrainian officials said Friday, adding that Kiev’s forces have been lagging behind Moscow’s biggest advance in weeks.
Ukraine says its forces still hold new defensive lines in the eastern Donbass region, where the pace has changed in recent days, despite clear Russian advances on the two main fronts.
Moscow’s separatist proxies say they have full control of Lehman, which Russia has attacked from the north on a major axis of its progress.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Bloomberg UK that “I am afraid that (President Vladimir) Putin is chewing on the ground in Donbass, at great cost to himself and to the Russian military.”
Ukrainian officials have acknowledged that Russia has occupied most of the city. But the defense ministry said forces were still blocking the Russians from advancing on Sloviansk, a major city half an hour further south-west.
To the east, Russian forces besieged two-thirds of Sivirodonetsk and destroyed 90% of its buildings, said Serhiy Gaidai, the regional governor. Donbass is the largest city in Ukraine. Russia is trying to trap Ukrainian forces there and in Lysichansk on the opposite river.
Oleski Arestovich, an adviser to the Ukrainian president, said overnight that Lyman had fallen and that a well-organized Russian attack there showed that Moscow’s military was improving its tactics and operations.
After being pushed out of the capital Kyiv in March and on the outskirts of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city, this month, Russian forces are staging their strong advance in Donbass in just a few weeks.
The advance came after Russian forces crossed the Ukrainian line south of Siviarodonetsk in the town of Popasna last week.
Popasna, who reached Reuters reporters in the Russian-controlled area on Thursday, was a fallen ground of burnt buildings. Russian tanks and military vehicles and helicopters pounded the streets, and the swollen body of a man in a war uniform lay in a courtyard.
Tired of taking refuge in a cellar, Natalia Kovalenko returned to live in the rubble of her flat. The porch was blown off and the windows exploded.
He looked in the yard, described how two people had died there, and when they went out to cook, eight people had been injured by shells. Inside, her kitchen and living room were littered with rubble, but she had arranged for a small bedroom to sleep in.
“I have to fix the window somehow. The wind is still bad,” he said. “We’re so scared.”
According to the British Ministry of Defense, Russian ground forces have now captured several villages northwest of Popasna.
‘How much is the price’
Russia’s advance follows a Ukrainian counter-attack that pushed Russian forces out of Kharkiv in May. But Ukrainian forces were unable to attack the Russian supply line in Donbass.
On Thursday, Russian forces shelled parts of Kharkiv for the first time in days. Nine people were killed, local officials said. Reuters depicts shells exploding in the vicinity, sending clouds of smoke into the sky over the blood-stained sidewalk frozen in broken glass.
The Kremlin has denied targeting civilians.
In the south, where Moscow has occupied a portion since the February 24 invasion, Ukrainian officials believe Russia aims to impose permanent rule.
Ukraine’s army’s southern command says Russia is sending military equipment from Crimea, building a third line of defense in preparation for a possible Ukrainian counter-attack, and digging a reservoir behind a dam on the Dnipro River that separates troops.
“All of this indicates that Russia will try to take control of the occupied territories,” it said.
On the diplomatic front, EU officials say an agreement could be reached by Sunday to ban Russian oil supplies by sea, which would account for about 75% of the bloc’s supply, but not through a pipeline, to win over Hungary and lift new sanctions. .
In an overnight speech, Zelensky criticized the EU for imposing sanctions on Russian energy imports, saying the bloc was financing Moscow’s war effort with one billion euros a day.
“Every day is delayed … it means more Ukrainians are being killed,” he said.
Western nations, led by the United States, have provided Ukraine with long-range weapons, including the M777 Howitzer. Kiev says they want long-range ground weapons, especially rocket launchers, to help them win the cannon war.
U.S. officials say the Biden administration is considering supplying Kiev with the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which has a range of hundreds of kilometers (miles).
Washington has refrained from supplying such weapons, partly to avoid tensions if Ukraine hits deep Russian targets. U.S. and diplomatic officials told Reuters Washington had discussed the issue with Kiev.
A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said, “We are concerned about the growing number and we still do not want to be geographically limited or we do not want to tie their hands too much to what they are given.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the supply of weapons that could reach Russian territory would be “a serious step towards unacceptable growth.”
Russia has called its invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” to defeat the “Nazis” there. Westerners describe it as a baseless argument for a war of aggression.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)