KYIV—Russian forces swarmed into the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, a Ukrainian official said on Monday.
Pro-Moscow separatists claimed the last bridge out of Sievierodonetsk had been destroyed and Ukrainian defenders there must now surrender or die. Ukraine said there was still another way out although it was severely damaged.
Regional governor Sergei Gadai said fighting was raging and Ukrainian forces were defending building by building.
Russian forces now controlled about 70 percent of Sievierodonetsk, he said, and were destroying it “quarter by quarter” in one of the bloodiest assaults since they launched their invasion on Feb. 24.
“Russians continue to storm the city, having a significant advantage in artillery they have somewhat pushed back the Ukrainian soldiers,” Gaidai, who is governor of the Luhansk region that includes Sievierodonetsk, said on Monday.
Russian artillery fire pummelled the Azot chemical plant, where hundred of civilians were sheltering, he claimed.
Gaidai said the twin city of Lysychansk across the Siverskyi Donets river to the west was also being shelled by Russian forces, and a six-year-old child had been killed there.
Reuters could not independently confirm that account.
Russia’s RIA news agency quoted a pro-Moscow separatist spokesperson, Eduard Basurin, as saying the last bridge over the river linking the two cities had been destroyed on Sunday. Ukrainian troops were effectively blockaded in Sievierodonetsk and should surrender or die, Basurin said.
Gaidai also said one crossing was destroyed on Sunday, but there was still another “half destroyed” bridge remaining, though it could not be used for heavy vehicles.
“If after new shelling the bridge collapses, the city will truly be cut off. There will be no way of leaving Sievierodonetsk in a vehicle.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also said in his nightly video address on Sunday that severe fighting was ongoing in the Donbass, “literally for every metre.”
In Sievierodonetsk, the last pocket of Ukrainian land held in the Luhansk region, Ukrainian and Russian forces were both suffering heavy losses, Roman Vlasenko, head of Sievierodonetsk district administration, told local TV.
Russia issued the latest of several recent reports saying it had destroyed U.S. and European arms and equipment, hoping to send the message that delivering more would be futile.
Russia’s defense ministry said high-precision air-based missiles had struck near the railway station in Udachne northwest of Donetsk, hitting equipment that had been delivered to Ukrainian forces. There was no immediate word from the Ukrainian side.
Moscow has criticized the United States and other nations for sending Ukraine weapons, threatening to strike new targets if the West supplied long-range missiles.
By Natalia Zinets and Maria Starkova