On Monday Ukraine's military acknowledged for the first time that Russian forces have taken over the center of the key city of Severodonetsk, considered the last major place of resistance and holdout before pro-Moscow forces take the whole of Luhansk province.
"In the Severodonetsk direction, the enemy, with the support of artillery, carried out assault operations in the city of Severodonetsk, had partial success, pushed our units away from the city center, the fighting continues," the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine announced in a written statement.
Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged that his troops are fighting for every meter: "The occupiers key tactical goal has not changed. They are pressing in Severodonetsk, severe fighting is going on there — literally every meter,” he said, also admitting a rapid Russian advance on other regional cities such as Lysychansk, Bakhmut and Sloviansk.
But all eyes have been on Severodonetsk – given that its fall would mark a huge strategic success for Russian president Vladimir Putin, creating momentum for Russian forces to finally take the whole of Donbas, coming also just after a 'land bridge' had been established linking Western Russia to Donbas and Crimea.
Russian forces have for weeks been slowly encircling Severodonetsk, which now looks inevitable. Ukraine's governor for the region, Sergiy Gaiday, called the developing situation "extremely difficult" – particularly after the Russian army obliterated a second bridge into the city over the weekend. He further cited constant bombardment and shelling from Russian lines.
Commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian military Valeriy Zaluzhny has said Russia has a "tenfold advantage" when it comes to artillery fire and ammunition supply.
Meanwhile, another 'Azovstal-style standoff' could be ensuing in the embattled city of Severodonetsk…
The Azot plant in #Severodonetsk is constantly shelled by the Russians. About 500 civilians, including 40 children, are sheltering there. We're trying to arrange an evacuation #UkraineRussiaWar pic.twitter.com/2KOIuJVLZY
— Serhiy Hayday (@serhey_hayday) June 13, 2022
He said in Facebook post, per The Moscow Times, that "Despite everything, we continue to hold positions. Every meter of Ukrainian land there is covered in blood — but not only ours, but also the occupier's."
Another Ukrainian official on Saturday warned that national forces are fast "running out of ammo" in a plea for immediate resupply from the West:
Speaking from near the frontlines, Mykolaiv Regional Governor Vitaliy Kim called for more support from U.S. and European allies, VOA News reported. He also indicated that, at least in his region of Ukraine, forces are running low on ammunition.
"Russia's army is more powerful, they have a lot of artillery and ammo. For now, this is a war of artillery… and we are out of ammo," Kim said. "The help of Europe and America is very, very important."
Below: broader city-wide view of fighting from last week:
— Serhiy Hayday (@serhey_hayday) June 8, 2022
Two weeks ago, just as the tide in the Donbas began to shift clearly in Russia's favor, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told French television that for Moscow it remains an "absolute priority… to push the Ukrainian army and the Ukrainian battalions out" of Donetsk and Luhansk. With the imminent fall of Severodonetsk this is looking increasingly likely, as many Western pundits are also belatedly acknowledging.