The humanitarian situation in the occupied Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk is rapidly deteriorating and on the verge of “catastrophe
The humanitarian situation in the occupied Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk is rapidly deteriorating and on the verge of “catastrophe” — as fighting continues for control of the eastern Luhansk region of the country, local Ukrainian officials said Friday.
The city, located in the state of Luhansk, was captured by Russian forces last month after a long battle that left much of Severodonetsk in ruins, and knocked out its power, water, and sewage.
The city “is on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe,” Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai posted on social media Friday. “The Russians have completely destroyed all the critical infrastructure, and they are unable to repair anything.”
Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk was quoted on a telegram saying that the city’s ruined power grid, cut off from Ukrainian electrical plants, meant there was no water available.
“Water intakes need a centralized supply of electricity to work,” he said. “Generators cannot cope with this.”
Haidai estimated that roughly 8,000 Ukrainian civilians remained behind in the city after Ukrainian forces retreated last week.
While Russia has claimed it is now in control of the whole of Luhansk — one the two provinces, along with Donetsk, that make up the industrial Donbas region — Haidai said Ukraine was still putting up a fight in the region.
“Luhansk hasn’t been fully captured even though the Russians have engaged all their arsenal to achieve that goal,” Haidai told The Associated Press. “Fierce battles are going on in several villages on the region’s border. The Russians are relying on tanks and artillery to advance, leaving scorched earth.”
On Telegram, the governor said Ukrainian forces were still fighting in two Luhansk towns, but he did not name them.
Haidai also pushed back on this week’s assessment by a Washington think-tank that the Kremlin’s forces were taking a so-called “operational pause” to lick their wounds.
“There is no operational pause on the part of the Russians, the shelling does not abate,” he wrote.
Haidai said some civilians were trying to escape the region through Russian territory, and that Russian soldiers were charging civilians for safe passage through roadblocks.
He also said Ukrainian mobile phone service in the region had been “disconnected.”
Meanwhile, Russian shelling in Donetsk has also intensified.
The office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday that at least 12 civilians had been killed and another 30 wounded by Russian artillery attacks over the last 24 hours. Ukrainian-held towns in Donetsk had reportedly bore the brunt of the assault.
Russian forces announced that they intended to take the Donbas — which the Kremlin has declared to be made up of two independent breakaway states — after their failed attempt to capture the whole of Ukraine early on in the war.
Russia’s ambassador to London hinted at greater ambitions on Friday, however, saying that Moscow was unlikely to withdraw from southern Ukraine, where it currently occupies the majority of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.
“Of course it is difficult to predict the withdrawal of our forces from the southern part of Ukraine because we have already experienc[ed] that after withdrawal, provocations start and all the people are being shot and all that,” Russian Ambassador Andrei Kelin said.
Kelin also warned that increased Western support for Ukraine could escalate the conflict even more.
“If the flow of weapons [to Ukraine from the West] is organized in such a way that it endangers our strategic situation, our defense, we will have to take serious measures against that,” he said.
With Post wires