Sievierodonetsk mayor says just 20% of city in Ukrainian hands

REUTERS/Serhii Nuzhnenko/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A local resident stands next to debris of an open market destroyed by a military strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine April 16, 2022.

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian forces are holding just a fifth of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk but there is still hope that they can prevent Russia taking full control, the head of the city administration told Reuters in a telephone interview on Wednesday.

Russian forces entered the eastern Ukrainian city, the largest still held by Kyiv in the Luhansk region, late last week after weeks of shelling.

If Russia captures the city and its smaller twin Lysychansk on the higher west bank of the Siverskyi Donets river, it will hold all of Luhansk, one of two provinces in the eastern Donbas region that Moscow claims on behalf of separatists and a key war aim of President Vladimir Putin.

Russian forces now control 60% of the city and Ukraine holds 20% while the rest has become “no-man’s land”, said Oleksandr Stryuk, the Ukrainian head of the city administration, who declined to give his location.

“The 20% is being fiercely defended by our armed forces,” Stryuk said. “Our troops are holding defensive lines. Attempts are being made to drive out the Russian troops.”

“We have hope that despite everything we will free the city and not allow it to be completely occupied,” he said.

Stryuk said that 12-13,000 people remain in the city but that all essential infrastructure had been destroyed and that access to the city to deliver food or other aid was impossible.

“They are living in conditions of constant shelling, and now street battles are going on too, which has heightened the danger to the civilian population.”