Dhe “street fighting” continued on Saturday June 4 in the industrial zone of Sievierodonetsk, a key city in eastern Ukraine where, according to kyiv, Moscow “throws all its weight” into the battle, more than 100 days after the start of the war. Russia is concentrating its offensive in this region of Donbass in the hope of taking complete control of it. A long-term “war of attrition” is being played out there, according to NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
“The situation in the whole region is extremely difficult. The fighting is currently concentrated in Sievierodonetsk because […] the Russian army threw all its weight and reserves” into this battle, Lugansk region governor Sergiy Gaidai said in an interview posted on his official social media. “Initial information indicates that they have managed to take control of most of the city. But our forces are pushing them back now,” he said.
“Operations are underway in the industrial zone of Sievierodonetsk. The street fights are continuing,” the press service of the Ukrainian presidency said on Saturday morning. Russian forces have the stated objective of controlling the entire large mining basin of Donbass, of which pro-Russian separatist forces backed by Moscow took partial control in 2014.
The city of Sievierodonetsk, together with the neighboring city of Lysytchansk, located some 80 kilometers from the Ukrainian regional administrative capital of Kramatorsk, is a key agglomeration to achieve this. Before the war Severodonetsk had some 100,000 inhabitants. “At least six residential towers were damaged in Sievierodonetsk and Lysytchansk” and “there were four dead and one injured” in Russian attacks in the eastern region of Lugansk, according to the presidency.
On Friday, the governor of the Lugansk region said that Russian troops had “not fully taken control” of Severodonetsk and were even forced to retreat. And like the Ukrainian president, he had called for heavy weapons to avoid what happened in Mariupol. This strategic port on the Sea of Azov (southeast) was devastated by bombardments before being conquered on May 20 despite long resistance in the city’s industrial zone.
“Military objectives fulfilled”
After 100 days of war, Russia said on Friday June 3 that it had fulfilled some of the objectives of the “special military operation” it launched on February 24 to, in its own words, “denazify” Ukraine and protect its Russian-speaking population. “Victory will be ours,” retorted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a video where he appears in front of the presidential administration building in kyiv with several of his collaborators.
In addition to the Sievierodonetsk region, the fighting continued to rage on Saturday on the other fronts. In the Kherson region (south), “residents have left the village of Trudolyubivka” and the Russian forces “continue to bombard the occupied territories and the positions of the Ukrainian army”, assured the Ukrainian presidency, warning against a humanitarian crisis in areas under Russian control.
Also in the south, kyiv reported a Russian cruise missile hitting an agricultural business in the large port of Odessa: “Warehouses were damaged. According to initial information, the attack caused two “victims”, but the presidency did not specify whether they were people killed or injured.
For his part, the spokesman for the Russian Ministry of Defense, Igor Konashenkov, gave an update on Saturday on the latest operations. Moscow thus claims to have destroyed a “deployment point for foreign mercenaries” near Dachnoe, in the Odessa region, and two Ukrainian command centers and six ammunition depots near the localities of Vessioloe, Bakhmout (Donetsk region) and Spornoe , Podlesnoe and Loskoutovka (Lugansk region).
The Russian army also claims to have hit with missiles a training center for Ukrainian gunners near Stetskovka, in the Sumy region, where “foreign instructors trained Ukrainian soldiers in the use of the M777 howitzer”. According to Moscow, Russian aircraft and artillery have hit numerous concentrations of Ukrainian troops and equipment in the past 24 hours.
The Donetsk separatist emergency services said that 2 civilians had been killed by Ukrainian fire in the separatist areas and 8 others injured in the past 24 hours. Four foreign volunteer soldiers, including a Frenchman, were killed fighting the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the International Legion for the Defense of Ukraine, the official body for foreign volunteer fighters, also announced on Saturday.
The Legion cited the names of a Dutchman, an Australian, a German and a Frenchman without specifying the date or the circumstances of their deaths. Since the invasion of Ukraine launched just a hundred days ago by Vladimir Putin, his army has tripled the portion of Ukrainian territory it controls: with the Crimean peninsula and the occupied territories of Donbass and southern Ukraine, Russia now controls almost 125,000 km2, according to President Zelensky.
The situation also remained very fragile in the areas bombed by the Russians and taken over by the Ukrainian forces, such as in Horenka, on the outskirts of kyiv (north-west), where a distribution of humanitarian aid took place on Friday. Hanna Viniychuk, 67, cries as she says she lost everything: ‘When the apartment was bombed, I could hardly take anything and now it’s too expensive to take the bus, so I came to pick up the premises of the town hall of basic necessities. I am staying elsewhere temporarily. I am grateful for this help. »
Tetyana Shepeleva, community leader of Horenka, distributes humanitarian aid at the municipal premises. She gives packs of milk to a resident. “We have a list of people who need help managed by the army, around 5,000 people currently”. She shows the Unicef boxes piled up to the ceiling: “There are sheets, mattresses, meals prepared by the World Center Kitchen network. People have nothing and always try to have a little more. The UN is also worried about the risk of a food crisis, particularly in Africa, which imports more than half of its cereals from Ukraine and Russia. Their price in Africa has already exceeded the levels reached during the Arab Spring crises in 2011 or during the food riots in 2008.
The current president of the African Union (AU) and Senegalese head of state Macky Sall said he was “reassured” on Friday on this point after his meeting with the Russian president.