The head of the Lugansk regional military administration said Russian troops control most of the city of Syevyerodonetsk, but fears that Ukrainian forces are surrounded are unfounded.
Serhiy Hayday said Ukrainian service of RFE/RL on May 31 that the Ukrainian forces were able to maneuver.
“The army is calmly defending its positions,” he said, adding that the city was 90 percent damaged and most of the damage was “virtually irreparable.”
Hayday also said Russian troops were unable to completely capture the Luhansk region, which the Ukrainian army has been defending for four months.
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Hayday said earlier on May 31 that part of Syevyerodonetsk was “already controlled by the Russian army” and that Russian troops were “gradually moving towards the city center”. Syevyerodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk and District Administration Chief Roman Vlasenko confirmed that Russian troops controlled about half of the city.
Hayday also said a Russian airstrike hit a tank containing nitric acid at a chemical plant in Syevyerodonetsk. He warned the town’s remaining residents not to leave their homes.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the airstrike was “just crazy”, but said it was “no longer surprising that for the Russian army, for the Russian commanders, for the Russian soldiers, all madness is absolutely acceptable”.
A pro-Moscow separatist representative said the tank had “exploded” in territory controlled by Ukrainian forces.
“At the Azot chemical plant, a container with chemicals exploded. Initially it was nitric acid,” said Rodion Mironchik, a representative of the Russian-backed separatists who call the territory qu they control the Lugansk People’s Republic, on Telegram.
Zelenskiy also reported that Ukrainian forces have had some success near the southern city of Kherson and are advancing in parts of the Kharkiv region east of Kyiv.
“Our defenders show the greatest courage and remain in control of the situation at the front despite the fact that the Russian army has a significant advantage in terms of equipment and manpower,” he said in his night speech.
The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) said on May 31 that up to 12,000 civilians remained trapped and needed help in Syevyerodonetsk.
“I am horrified to see Syevyerodonetsk, the thriving city where we had our operational headquarters, become the epicenter of a new chapter in the brutal war in Ukraine,” he added. head of NRC Jan Egeland said.
“We fear that up to 12,000 civilians remain caught in the crossfire in the city, without sufficient access to water, food, medicine or electricity. The near-constant shelling is forcing civilians to take refuge in bomb shelters and basements, with very few opportunities for those trying to escape.”
British intelligence confirmed on May 31 that heavy shelling was continuing in Syevyerodonetsk and street fighting was taking place.
“Progress has been slow but gains are being sustained,” Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in its regular newspaper. information bulletinadding that Moscow’s political objective seems to remain the control and complete occupation of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
But British intelligence has warned that while achieving greater success locally compared to the early days of the war, Moscow’s gains have come at the cost of mustering forces and burning a relatively small area. . “This forces Russia to accept the risk elsewhere in the occupied territory,” the bulletin said.
As Moscow’s advance on Syevyerodonetsk intensified, Russian forces also shelled parts of northeastern Ukraine.
“The situation in the Donbass remains extremely difficult. The Russian army is trying to gather overwhelming forces in some areas to put more and more pressure on our defenders. There, in the Donbass, the maximum combat power of the army Russia is now united,” said Zelenskiy. said in his late evening speech on May 30.
The Russian Defense Ministry, meanwhile, announced on May 31 that it would hand over the bodies of 152 Ukrainian soldiers found at the Azovstal steel plant in the port city of Mariupol, now under Moscow’s control.
The ministry said its troops had found 152 corpses of Ukrainian Armed Forces militants and servicemen which it said were stored in a cooling unit and that four mines had been discovered under the bodies.
“The Russian side plans to hand over the bodies of Ukrainian militants and servicemen found on the territory of the Azovstal plant to representatives in Ukraine,” the ministry added.
On May 31, a Moscow-backed separatist leader in eastern Ukraine said a ship had left the Ukrainian port of Mariupol for the first time since Russia captured the strategic Sea town of Azov. after months of fierce fighting with Ukrainian defenders.
Denis Pushilin said the ship, carrying metal, was heading east into Russia. “Today 2,500 tons of sheet rolls left the port of Mariupol, the ship is heading for Rostov[-on-Don]“, wrote Pushilin on Telegram.
Ukraine said shipping metal to Russia from Mariupol amounted to looting.
On May 30, EU leaders agreed to ban most Russian oil imports. They also agreed to the removal of Russian bank Sberbank from the SWIFT messaging system, the banning of three other Russian public broadcasters and sanctions against those responsible for war crimes.
The EU has rolled out five sanctions packages against Russia since its troops invaded Ukraine on February 24, but a deal on oil sanctions has proven elusive as many countries rely on Russian crude.