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Here’s how Russia is zeroing in on key Ukrainian stronghold Severodonetsk

As the Russia-Ukraine war continues for nearly three months with no clear end in sight, ThePrint brings you daily updates on the changing frontlines.

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New Delhi: Ukraine’s strategically important city of Severodonetsk is now an immediate tactical priority for Russia, amid President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s stark remarks at the World Economic Forum in Davos recently.

The Ukrainian president has called on leaders for a complete withdrawal of businesses from Russia.

On 20 May, pro-Russian military bloggers had called Russian efforts to encircle Severodonetsk as the ‘Battle of Severodonetsk’. One such blogger also claimed that the city was “blocked” from the North, East and South.

Illustration by ThePrint team

On 21 May, a Telegram channel that goes by the name ‘Readovka’ reported that the Russian armed forces have destroyed a bridge across the Donets river using “self-propelled mortars”, severing Ukrainian ground lines of communication between Severodonetsk and the city of Lysychansk.

The general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces had, in the meanwhile, reported several Russia-led “offensive and stormy actions” around the settlements of Oskolonivka, Purdivka, Schedryshcheve and Smolyaninov to the east of Severodonetsk. It also added that “the offense was rebuked, the enemy suffered losses and was forced to step back to their old positions”.

The Institute for the Study of War (ISW) had previously confirmed that Russian troops recaptured Rubizhne in northern Kharkiv on 19 May. It added that these operations are likely meant to encircle Severodonetsk from “the north (via Rubizhne), west (via Bilohorivka), and south (via Popasna)” in addition to attempts in the east.

Illustration by ThePrint team

Severodonetsk is one of the last Ukrainian strongholds in Luhansk Oblast, and is a crucial component of Russian efforts to capture the Donbas region – framed as the “liberation of Donbas” by President Putin.

Where is Russia’s focus?

Media reporters appear divided when trying to understand Russia’s broader military objectives with regards to Severodonetsk. While Peter Beaumont for The Guardian stated that Russia’s focus was the city of Soledar, “to cut one of the main supply routes to thousands of Ukrainian defenders”, Matthew Mpoke Bigg for The New York Times wrote that Russia’s push was “toward the city of Kramatorsk”, the headquarters of Ukraine’s military command in the east.

Serhiy Haidai, head of the Ukrainian military administration in Luhansk, stated on Telegram that although Russian forces were repelled in their attempt to “breach the city’s defences from four directions”, they “damaged five high-rises and shopping areas of the central market” by continuing to fire mortar shells.

Taking count of the “12 dead and dozens wounded in just one day” in Severodonetsk, President Zelenskyy has said that the Donbas region was being turned into “hell”.

“The occupiers are trying to increase pressure. There’s hell, and that’s not an exaggeration…the brutal and absolutely pointless bombing of Severodonetsk…The bombing and shelling of other cities, the air and missile strikes of the Russian army – all this is not just hostilities during the war,” The Guardian quoted Zelenskyy as saying.

With inputs from Raghav Bikhchandani 

Also read: What next for Ukrainian soldiers in Mariupol, now in Russia’s hands


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