Ukraine ignores Sievierodonetsk ultimatum; urges faster arms deliveries

A damaged tram is pictured at a shelled tram depot, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Wednesday.  Photo: Reuters.Ns News Online Desk:

Ns News Online Desk: KYIV/NEW-YORK –Ukraine ignored a Russian ultimatum to surrender the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk on Wednesday as the United States announced more weapons for Kyiv, which warned that arms deliveries were taking too long. Sievierodonetsk, now largely in ruins, has become the focal point of the war. Russia had told Ukrainian forces holed up in a chemical plant there to lay down their arms from Wednesday morning as it fights for control of eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine says more than 500 civilians, including 40 children, remain alongside soldiers inside the Azot chemical factory, sheltering from weeks of Russian bombardment. Russian-backed separatists in the area say up to 1,200 civilians may be inside.

The mayor of Sievierodonetsk, Oleksandr Stryuk, said Russian forces were trying to storm the city from several directions but the Ukrainians continued to defend it and were not totally cut off, even though all its river bridges had been destroyed. “The situation is difficult but stable,” he told Ukrainian television. “The escape routes are dangerous, but there are some.” He made no reference to Russia’s ultimatum.

Moscow said it had opened a humanitarian corridor from Azot on Wednesday to allow civilians to escape to Russian-controlled territory. It accused Ukraine’s forces of disrupting that plan and using civilians as human shields, which Kyiv denies. “There are no obstacles for civilians to leave… except for the decision in principle by the Kyiv authorities themselves,” Russia’s defense ministry said in a statement. Reuters was unable to verify that claim.

Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region containing Sievierodonetsk, said Ukraine’s army was defending the city and trying to stop Russian forces from taking its twin city Lysychansk on the opposite bank of the Siverskyi Donets river. Reuters could not immediately verify the battlefield accounts.

Luhansk is one of two eastern provinces Moscow claims on behalf of separatist proxies. Together they make up the Donbas, an industrial region where Russia has focused its assault after failing to take Ukraine’s capital Kyiv in March.

Addressing dozens of NATO defense ministers meeting in Brussels to debate their next moves, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the invasion was at a pivotal moment. “We can’t afford to let up and we can’t lose steam. The stakes are too high,” he said at the start of the talks.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance was “extremely focused on stepping up support” for Ukraine.

 By Reuters

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