Ns News Online Desk; Meanwhile Russia begins returning bodies of Ukrainian fighters from Mariupol
On the Other side Russia is deploying troop reinforcements in eastern Ukraine to help capture a key city, Ukraine said, while other towns are under constant shelling as the Kremlin pushed for control of Donbass Ukrainian troops on Tuesday were engaged in fierce street fighting with Russian soldiers in the industrial city of Severodonetsk, trying to hold onto the gains from a surprise counteroffensive that had reversed the momentum in one of the bloodiest land battles of the war, as the Kremlin pushed for control of the eastern Donbass region.
The fight for the small industrial city has emerged as a pivotal battle in eastern Ukraine, with Russia focusing its offensive might there in the hope of achieving one of its stated war aims – to fully capture the surrounding Luhansk province on behalf of separatist proxies.After withdrawing from nearly all the city in the face of the Russian advance, Ukrainian forces staged a surprise counterattack last week, driving the Russians from a swath of the city center. Since then, the two armies have faced off across boulevards, both claiming to have inflicted huge casualties.
“Our heroes are not giving up positions in Severodonetsk,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in an overnight video address, describing fierce street fighting in the city. Earlier, he told reporters at a briefing the Ukrainians were outnumbered but still had “every chance” of fighting back.
The city’s Mayor, Oleksandr Stryuk, told Ukrainian television on Tuesday that the Ukrainian forces were doing all they could to hold their ground: “Our armed forces have strengthened their positions and are holding the line.”
Before Ukraine’s counteroffensive, Russia had seemed on the verge of encircling Ukraine’s garrison in Luhansk province, cutting off the main road to Severodonetsk and its twin city Lysychansk across the Severskyi Donets River.The city’s Mayor, Oleksandr Stryuk, told Ukrainian television on Tuesday that the Ukrainian forces were doing all they could to hold their ground: “Our armed forces have strengthened their positions and are holding the line.”
Before Ukraine’s counteroffensive, Russia had seemed on the verge of encircling Ukraine’s garrison in Luhansk province, cutting off the main road to Severodonetsk and its twin city Lysychansk across the Severskyi Donets River.
But following the counteroffensive, Zelenskyy made a surprise visit to Lysychansk on Sunday, personally demonstrating that Kyiv still had an open route to its troops’ redoubt. Ukraine’s defense ministry said Russia was throwing troops and equipment into its drive to capture Severodonetsk. Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said that Russian forces control the industrial outskirts of Severodonetsk, one of two cities in the Luhansk region still in Ukrainian hands.Russia appears bent on capturing the entire eastern Donbass part of Ukraine, which is made up of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.
Though the Kremlin’s forces have superior firepower, the Ukrainian defenders — among them the country’s most well-trained forces – are entrenched and have the capability to counterattack. Dozens of Ukrainian fighters killed at the Azovstal steelworks have been returned to Ukraine by the Russian occupiers of the fortress-like plant in the destroyed city of Mariupol, where their last-ditch stand became a symbol of resistance against Moscow’s invasion.
The dead taken from the ruins of the bombed-out mill were transferred to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, where DNA testing is underway to identify the remains, according to both a military leader and a spokesperson for the Azov Regiment.