On Tuesday, Russian troops launched a full-scale assault to encircle Ukrainian troops in twin cities standing on the banks of a river in eastern Ukraine.
Exactly three months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the authorities of the second largest city of Kharkov had to open an underground subway, where thousands of civilians for several months sought refuge under the relentless bombing.
The opening is a symbol of Ukraine’s greatest military success in recent weeks: the expulsion of Russian troops mainly from the Kharkiv artillery range, as was done from the capital Kyiv in March.
But the decisive battles of the last phase of the war are still raging further south, where Moscow is trying to seize the Donbass region, which consists of two eastern regions, Donetsk and Luhansk, and keep Ukrainian forces in their pockets on the main eastern front.
The easternmost part of the Ukrainian-controlled Donbass pocket, the city of Sevrodanetsk on the east bank of the Seversky Donets River and its sister Lysychansk on the west bank, became the main battlefield, where Russian forces advanced from three sides to surround them.
“The enemy has focused its efforts on the offensive to encircle Lysychansk and Severodonetsk,” said Luhansk Governor Sergei Gaidai, where the two cities are among the last territories still under Ukrainian rule.
“The intensity of the fire in Severodonetsk has increased many times, they are just destroying the city,” he said on TV, adding that there are about 15,000 people in the city, and the Ukrainian military remains under control.
Journalists of the Reuters news agency in the Donbass, who reached Bakhmut further west, heard and saw on Monday the intense shelling of the highway towards Lysychansk. Ukrainian armored vehicles, tanks and missiles moved towards the front line, with troops and buses.
Further west in Sloviansk, one of the largest cities in the Donbass still in Ukrainian hands, air raids sounded on Tuesday morning, but the streets were still busy: the market was full, children were cycling and street music was played on the violin. at the supermarket.
Two empty public transport buses were driving towards the frontline town of Lyman to evacuate civilians from heavy shelling accompanied by police and a military vehicle.
“Who will hide them?”
Mr Gaidai said Ukrainian forces had driven the Russians out of the village of Toshkovka south of Severodonetsk. Independently confirmed this failed. Four people died in a shelling of a house in Severodonetsk overnight.
The battle there took place after the surrender last week of the Ukrainian garrison in the port of Mariupol after almost three months of siege, during which Kyiv believes that tens of thousands of civilians were killed.
Russia now controls an inseparable part of eastern and southern Ukraine, but has not yet achieved its goal of capturing all of Luhansk and Donetsk.
US President Joe Biden, said the war showed the importance of protecting international law and human rights around the world. The day before, he had broken the convention to say it openly a self-governing island claimed by China.
Mr Biden’s remarks about Taiwan were seen as a sign that three months of what Washington and its allies describe as Russia’s unprovoked aggressive war in Ukraine have intensified the West’s determination on security issues.
Russia’s three-month invasion, the largest attack on a European state since 1945, has led to more than 6.5 million people fleeing abroad, turning entire cities into ruins and lifting harsh economic sanctions against Moscow.
At the cemetery near Mariupol, stepping through long rows of fresh graves and homemade wooden crosses, Natalia Voloshin, who lost her 28-year-old son in the struggle for the city, said many of the dead in Mariupol had no one left to honor their memory. .
“Who will hide them? Who will put the board?” She asked.
– They have no family.