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In Ukraine's Sievierodonetsk, a key battle for Donbas, there is heavy fighting on the streets

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English -  President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that Ukrainian troops and Russian soldiers were fighting fiercely on...




Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English - President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that Ukrainian troops and Russian soldiers were fighting fiercely on the streets of the industrial city of Sievierodonetsk. This was a key battle in the Kremlin's effort to take control of the eastern Donbas region.

"Our heroes do not give up positions in Sievierodonetsk. Street fighting is still going on in the city, "Zelenskiy said in his Monday night video message.

He also said, about the area where Sievierodonetsk is, "And the Ukrainian Donbas stands, stands strong."

"The situation changes every hour," Oleksandr Stryuk, the head of administration in Sievierodonetsk, said on TV. This made it hard to tell which side had the upper hand.

The city is now the main target of the Russian offensive in the Donbas, which is made up of the provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk. The Kremlin's invasion is still going on, and cities have been destroyed by artillery barrages as part of a war of attrition.

Ukraine's defense ministry said that Russia was also sending troops and equipment to help it take over Luhansk, the largest city still held by Ukraine.

Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of Luhansk, said earlier on Monday that things had gotten worse since Ukrainian defenders had pushed back the Russians over the weekend when it looked like they were going to win.

In its nightly report, the Ukrainian military said that Russian shelling in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions killed two civilians on Monday and that Russian forces had fired on more than 20 towns.

The reports from the battlefield could not be checked by Reuters on their own. Russia says it is not trying to hurt civilians in the war.

Russia says it wants to "liberate" the Donbas, which has been partly held by Moscow's separatist proxies since 2014. This is because Ukrainian forces pushed Russia's troops out of the capital Kyiv and the second largest city in Ukraine, Kharkiv, in the early stages of the war.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, but it says it did so as part of a "special military operation" to get rid of what it sees as threats to its security. Ukraine and its Western allies say this is just an excuse to start a war to grab territory, which could lead to a bigger conflict in Europe.

SHELLING ALL THE TIME

On Monday, the Ukrainian defense ministry said that Russian forces were also moving toward Sloviansk, which is about 53 miles west of Sievierodonetsk.

Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of the Donetsk region, said on Ukrainian TV that the front line is constantly being shelled.

"The enemy is also firing shells near Lyman in an attempt to destroy our defenses and move toward Sloviansk and Kramatorsk. Svyatohirsk is also being shelled for the same reason."

Kyrylenko said that people were being moved out of several towns, some of which were under attack day and night. About 24,000 people still live in Sloviansk.

"People are now realizing that it's time to leave, even though it's late," he said.

In a move coordinated with the US, Britain said it would give Ukraine multiple-launch rocket systems that can hit targets up to 80 km (50 miles) away. This would give Ukraine the more accurate, long-range firepower it needs to reach Russian artillery batteries, which are a key part of Moscow's battle plans.

Zelenskiy said that Kiev was slowly getting "specific anti-ship systems," and that these would be the best way to end a Russian blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports that stopped grain exports.

Sergei Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia, said that if the West sent long-range weapons, Moscow would push Ukrainian forces farther away from Russia's border.

Sunday, President Vladimir Putin said that Russia would attack new targets if the West gave Russia missiles with a longer range. For the first time in more than a month, Russian missiles hit Kyiv the same day.

The US embassy in Kyiv reopened in May after being closed for almost three months. The US says its embassy position in the Ukrainian capital has not changed.

Over Russia's invasion, the West has put sanctions on it that have never been this broad or harsh before.

On Monday, Russia's foreign ministry said that it had put personal sanctions on 61 U.S. officials, including the treasury and energy secretaries and top defence and media executives. It said that the move was a response to "constantly growing U.S. sanctions."

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