Fight for Donbas rages on as Russian forces in control of ‘most’ of the battle epicentre

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Severodonetsk is the epicentre of the battle for Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Street fighting continued to rage on Saturday in the eastern city, where Russian soldiers and Ukrainian troops are still locked in battle.

Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk region, which makes up Donbas along with the neighbouring Donetsk region said: “The situation remains difficult. Fighting continues, but unfortunately, most of the city is under Russian control. Some positional battles are taking place in the streets.”

The most active areas of fighting were Severodonetsk, Popasna, and the area of the Siverskyi Donets river, Mr Haidai said on national television Saturday, adding Russian forces were using “highly destructive thermobaric rocket artillery.”

He said: “Unfortunately, enemy artillery is simply dismantling floor-to-floor buildings that are used as shelters.

“In this sense, it is difficult because the enemy will be knocked out of one street, and then they will start dismantling neighbourhoods house by house with tanks, artillery and grades.”

He further said that Russian shelling has caused a huge fire at a chemical plant in Ukraine’s Severodonetsk city where “non-stop” fighting rages.

Mr Haidai told Ukrainian TV that Saturday’s blaze started after a leak of tens of tonnes of oil from damaged radiators at the Azot plant.

Hundreds of civilians are reportedly sheltering at the plant.

Severodonetsk has become the focal point of Russia’s efforts to advance in eastern Ukraine.

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Fighting has lasted more than three months. Russia’s early attempt to capture major cities including the capital Kyiv faltered and is now instead trying to capture the Luhansk and the Donetsk regions – a vast mostly industrial area collectively known as Donbas.

Seizing Severodonetsk and its twin city of Lysychansk would move Russia closer to its goal as it would give them control over Luhansk.

Ukrainian officials estimate that as many as 800 civilians are hiding in underground bomb shelters at the Azot plant.

Describing the current situation in Severodonetsk, Mr Haidai said it was “difficult, but under control”.

He said: “Our soldiers are winning in street fights, but, unfortunately, the enemy’s artillery is simply dismantling – floor-by-floor – the houses used by our troops as shelters.

“So, when we push the enemy out of one street, they start using their tanks and artillery to destroy the area house-by-house.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Russian troops have suffered “very significant” casualties in Donbas.

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