Updated on 06/15/2022 at 16:10
- After weeks of intense fighting, Russian troops took control of most of the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk.
- From President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s point of view, the “fate of our Donbas” will be decided there.
- Why are Sieverodonetsk and neighboring Lysychansk so important to the course of Russia’s war of aggression?
The history of Severodonetsk began in 1934 with the chemical combination Azot and a workers’ settlement. Just 90 years later, the eastern Ukrainian city lies in ruins and is on the brink of its end.
Sieverodonetsk in the Luhansk region became the main battleground for the Donbas. The city has been under Russian fire for months: much of the city center and the chemical factory have been devastated. The ice palace at the southern end of the central traffic axis, as well as numerous apartment blocks – burned. The three bridges over the eponymous river, Siverskyi Donets, which form the last direct connection to the Ukrainian-controlled areas – destroyed.
Russian troops have been trying to take Severodonetsk since early March. Repeatedly they managed to advance and settle in some parts of the city. At the same time, the Ukrainian army tried to repel the offensive, with increasing success in the end. According to Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Hajday, only 20% to 30% of the city is still under Kyiv’s control. It is no longer possible to get there.
Read too: All current information about the war in Ukraine on the live ticker
Zelenskyy: “The fate of our Donbas will be decided in Seyerodonetsk”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the battle for Sieverodonetsk on Tuesday as “simply terrifying”. There are many victims on the Ukrainian side. However, the city’s chief administrator, Oleksandr Striuk, disagrees with regional governor Hajdaj. Striuk emphasized that Sjewjerodonzek was “not isolated”. The city was neither taken nor besieged.
On the other hand, one thing is clear: President Zelenskyy had already described the fight against the Russian army around the strategically important administrative center in early June as a path to the fight in the east of his country. “Syeverodonetsk remains the epicenter of the conflict in Donbas,” Zelenskyy said. “In many ways, the fate of our Donbas will be decided there.”
Because if Severodonetsk – and Lyssychansk just across the Siwerskyj Donets – then the entire Luhansk region is under Russian occupation. For Moscow, a partial objective of its aggressive war would be achieved.
Russia’s Attack on Ukraine: Current Combat Operations and Troop Movements. (Notice: This infographic will be updated regularly)
© dpa infographic GmbH
Russia wants to control all the Donbas
Furthermore, a capture of Sieverodonetsk would clear the way for the Russian army to Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, the capital of the neighboring Donetsk region. This is the inevitable second stage for Russia to gain control of the entire Donbas.
The Ukrainian army is still bitterly fighting for Severodonetsk. However, the second remaining city in the Luhansk region, Lysychansk, is strategically more important due to its location, regional governor Hajda explained on Ukrainian radio.
Because Lyssychansk is on a hill. Not only can the city be better defended than Severodonetsk, but the Russian-controlled and much lower regions can also be bombed from there.
One of the three destroyed bridges from Lysychansk to Sieverodonetsk over the Severskyi Donets River. In the background: the Azot chemical plant. (Photo taken on May 26)
© ZUMA Wire/IMAGO/Alex Chan Tsz Yuk
Chemical plant evacuation fails
According to British intelligence estimates, large numbers of Russian forces will also be tied up around the Azot chemical plant “as long as Ukrainian fighters can survive underground”. Ukrainian soldiers, but also hundreds of citizens, are said to have sought refuge at the plant. The Ukrainian side rejected a request for surrender from Moscow, and an evacuation of civilians failed on Wednesday.
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After separatists and Russian troops took control of the regional capital of Luhansk in 2014, the Ukrainian central government moved its administrative headquarters to Severodonetsk, about 70 kilometers away. Likewise, tens of thousands of IDPs from the occupied territories found shelter in the city. Most of the estimated 100,000 residents have fled since the start of the great Russian invasion on February 24.
With material from dpa and AFP.
Updated on 6/14/2022 at 10:17 am
Locations in eastern Ukraine are fiercely contested. The city of Seyerodonetsk has a key role to play in whether Russia can gain an advantage in the region.