KYIV/BAKHMUT, (Ukraine): Russian forces tightened their grip on the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk on Monday, a Ukrainian official said, cutting off the last routes for evacuating citizens in a scene that echoed last month’s siege of the port of Mariupol.
Amid heavy bombardment, regional governor Sergei Gaidai said on social media that all bridges out of the city had been destroyed, making it impossible to bring in humanitarian cargoes or evacuate citizens.
He said 70% of the small industrial city – now the focus of one of the bloodiest battles of the war – was under Russian control, but that the remaining Ukrainian defenders were not completely blockaded.
“They have the ability to send the wounded to hospitals, so there is still access,” he told Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Ukrainian service. “It’s hard to deliver weapons or reserves. Difficult, but not impossible.”
Ukraine has issued increasingly urgent calls for more Western heavy weapons to help defend Sievierodonetsk, which Kyiv says could hold the key to the battle for the eastern Donbas region and the course of the war, now in its fourth month.
Ukraine’s military command said in a briefing note that Russian forces were trying to take full control of Sievierodonetsk, but that an assault on Ukrainian positions in the southeast of the city had failed.
“The battles are so fierce that fighting for not just a street but for a single high-rise building can last for days,” Gaidai said earlier.