(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian forces invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Ukrainian troops have offered “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.
The Russian military has since launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, capturing the strategic port city of Mariupol and securing a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.
Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:
May 31, 5:42 am
Up to 12,000 civilians may be trapped in fight for Severodonetsk
As Russian forces battle for control of a key eastern Ukrainian city, up to 12,000 civilians may be trapped in the crossfire, according to the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
“I am horrified to see Severodonetsk, the thriving city where we had our operational headquarters, become the epicentre of yet another chapter of the brutal war in Ukraine,” NRC Secretary-General Jan Egeland said in a statement Tuesday. “We fear that up to 12,000 civilians remain caught in crossfire in the city, without sufficient access to water, food, medicine or electricity. The near-constant bombardment is forcing civilians to seek refuge in bomb shelters and basements, with only few precious opportunities for those trying to escape.”
Over the past week, the Oslo-based humanitarian organization has been working with local Ukrainian partners to provide thousands of monthly food and hygiene parcels to civilians remaining in Severodonetsk and the greater Luhansk Oblast, according to Egeland. The city is the last still held by Ukrainian forces in Luhansk Oblast.
“But now the intensified fighting makes aid delivery impossible,” he added. “We cannot save lives under the hail of grenades.”
NRC has been operational in Ukraine since 2014, serving people affected by conflict in the Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts of eastern Ukraine’s war-torn Donbas region.
“Almost one hundred days since the war in Ukraine escalated, we have seen bombs destroy critical infrastructure across the country and reduce entire cities like Severodonetsk to rubble,” Egeland said. “More than 14 million men, women and children are displaced within Ukraine or sheltering in other countries with no idea when they will be able to safely return to their homes.”
May 31, 4:50 am
Russians, Ukrainians fight street by street in key eastern city
Russian and Ukrainian forces are believed to be fighting street by street on the outskirts of Severodonetsk, a key city in Ukraine’s east, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Tuesday in an intelligence update.
“Russia’s capture of Lyman supports its operational main effort, which likely remains the encirclement of Sieverodonetsk and the closure of the pocket around Ukrainian forces in Luhansk Oblast,” the ministry said. “Heavy shelling continues, while street fighting is likely taking place on the outskirts of Sieverodonetsk town.”
After several days of fighting, the Russian military claimed Saturday to have fully seized the strategic town of Lyman, which serves as a railway hub in the Donetsk Oblast, west of Severodonetsk.
“Russia’s political goal is likely to occupy the full territory of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts,” the ministry added. “To achieve this, Russia will need to secure further challenging operational objectives beyond Sieverodonetsk, including the key city of Kramatorsk and the M04 Dnipro-Donetsk main road.”
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