” [Russians] appointed commandant. But the city is so destroyed that it will be difficult for people to cope with this situation,” said Alexander Stryuk, head of the military department.
Regional military officials said on Friday that the last troops in Severodonetsk had been ordered to withdraw as it was impossible to continue defending their positions. This effectively ceded the city to Russia and brought the Luhansk region in eastern Ukraine almost entirely under Russian control.
Severodonetsk was one of the last major Ukrainian strongholds in the area. Sergiy Gaidai, a senior military commander in eastern Ukraine, said the military had decided to evacuate “because the death toll in unfortified areas could rise by the day.”
The Russian Ministry of Defense (MoD) on Saturday confirmed that its forces had taken control of the entire left bank of the Seversky Donets, the eastern part of the river and all the borders of the pro-Russian self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic.
Russian troops “as a result of successful offensive actions completely liberated the cities of Severodonetsk and Borovskoye, the settlements of Voronovo and Syrotin of the Lugansk People’s Republic,” said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov.
“Currently, there is no way to leave the city, people can only try to leave towards the occupied territory. We will facilitate the evacuation, but so far there is no such possibility,” Stryuk said.
Several hundred civilians took refuge in the Azot chemical plant and refused requests to leave. Earlier Saturday, Hayday said Russian troops were continuing to shell the plant.
“Civilians are leaving the territory of the Azot plant, they [the Russians] shoot propaganda videos with them. People spent almost 3 months in basements, shelters. At the moment, they need physical and psychological help,” Stryuk added.
Konashenkov’s statement says that “the territory of the Azot plant in Severodonetsk is controlled by the forces of the Luhansk People’s Republic”, and the attempt by Ukrainian forces to “turn the industrial zone of the Azot plant into a hotbed of resistance has been thwarted.”
An avalanche of missile strikes
Ukraine has been hit by an avalanche of missile strikes, with Russia firing more than 40 missiles at targets in Ukraine in the past 24 hours, according to official figures.
North of Slovyansk, the Ukrainian military is reporting ongoing fighting in areas that have been on the front lines for months. The Russians launched artillery and air strikes on Ukrainian positions about 20 kilometers north of the city.
Explosions were also reported by the regional military administration in Zhytomyr in central Ukraine, killing one soldier and injuring another, although the city’s mayor said Zhytomyr itself “was unharmed.” The head of the military administration said that “about 10 missiles” were shot down by Ukrainian defenders. Regional authorities in Lvov in western Ukraine also reported rocket attacks on military targets.
Offensive continues in eastern Ukraine
The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said on Saturday that Russian efforts to block the main route from Bakhmut to Lysichansk are ongoing. It said that the Ukrainian military stopped the advance of the Russian infantry in the Vladimirovka area, which is 5 kilometers from the highway. But the General Staff admitted that the Russians advanced 1 kilometer, approaching Bakhmut.
Russia’s goal appears to be to cut off Ukrainian forces in the enclave of Luhansk and Donetsk regions. If they capture Bakhmut, they can prevent much of the resupply effort for Ukrainian defenders in Lysychansk and the surrounding areas.
Ukraine announced attacks from the airspace of Belarus
The Directorate stated that “rocket strikes from the territory of Belarus are a large-scale provocation of the Russian Federation in order to further involve Belarus in the war against Ukraine.”
It said: “Russian bombers struck directly from the territory of Belarus. Six Tu-22M3 aircraft were involved, which fired 12 Kh-22 cruise missiles. The directorate stated that the missiles were launched from the airspace over the Petrikovsky district in southern Belarus.
“After the launch, the missiles returned to the Shaikovka airfield in Russia. The strike was carried out in the Kyiv, Chernihiv and Sumy regions,” the report says.
“This is the first case of an air strike on Ukraine directly from the territory of Belarus,” the Commander-in-Chief said. CNN cannot confirm this claim.
The Ukrainian Air Force command supported the comments of the Ministry of Defense, stating on its Facebook page that “more than fifty missiles of various types were fired: air, sea and land-based.”
There have been no reports from the Belarusian government about the alleged use of its airspace for the latest strikes against Ukraine.
Ukraine denied Russia’s statement about the attack on Polish mercenaries
A Russian missile hit the city of Konstantinovka in Donetsk on Saturday, local authorities and the Russian Defense Ministry said.
But the two sides’ versions of what was the goal differ. Aleksei Roslov, head of the Konstantinovskaya civil military administration, said that “a critical infrastructure facility was hit,” causing a gas supply disruption and one death.
The Russian Defense Ministry released a short video of the missile attack, saying it was directed against Polish mercenaries based at the Megatex plant in Konstantinovka and killed up to 80 of them, as well as rocket launchers.
The official representative of the Russian Ministry of Defense, Lieutenant General Igor Konashenkov, said: “The enemy continues to suffer significant losses. As a result of high-precision strikes, up to 80 Polish mercenaries, 20 armored combat vehicles and eight Grad multiple rocket launchers were destroyed. .Russian Aerospace Forces on the buildings of the Megatex zinc plant.
Roslov denied this claim. “The soldiers were not there. There were a lot of people there after the strike, everyone can confirm that there were no soldiers,” Roslov told CNN.
About 45,000 people remain in the city, which is some distance from the front line.
Jim Sciutto of CNN, Sebastian Shukla and Joshua Berlinger contributed to this report.