Ukraine says it has recaptured a chunk of the factory city of Severodonetsk, the focus of a Russian offensive in the Donbas.
The Ukrainian forces have fought back against the Russian advance in the eastern city of Severodonetsk recapturing one-fifth of the industrial city in the past couple of days, according to Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Luhansk province.
Fierce fighting raged on Saturday in Severodonetsk and Lysychansk – the last two cities still not in full Russian control more than 100 days after Moscow invaded its western neighbour.
“They [Russians] didn’t seize it fully,” Haidai said on Friday, adding the invading forces had been pushed back “20 percent”.
Ukrainian troops were still holding an industrial zone in Severodonetsk, Haidai said, a scenario reminiscent of Mariupol, where a steel factory was the eastern port city’s last holdout.
On Thursday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said there had been “some progress” in the battle for Severodonetsk but gave no specifics.
In the city of Sloviansk, about 80km (50 miles) from Severodonetsk, the mayor has urged residents to evacuate in the face of intense Russian bombardment, with water and electricity cut off.
“The situation is getting worse,” student Gulnara Evgaripova told the AFP news agency as she boarded a minibus to leave the city.
Ekaterina Perednenko, a paramedic, said: “I am scared that there will be nothing to come back to.”
Russia reinforces its troops
Ukraine’s military said on Saturday Russia had reinforced its troops and had used artillery to conduct “assault operations” in Severodonetsk city. But it said Russian forces had retreated after failed attempts to advance in the nearby town of Bakhmut and cut off access to Severodonetsk.
Haidai said in a social media post that four people were killed in Russian attacks in the region on Saturday, including a mother and a child.
Meanwhile, Britain’s Ministry of Defence said Russia now controls more than 90 percent of Luhansk and is likely to take it over completely in the next two weeks.
Haidai said the progress made in the past two days shows that Ukraine may be able to hold off the Russian attack for that duration, the timeframe for the arrival of new, advanced Western weapons.
“As soon as we get a big amount of Western long-range weapons, we will push their artillery back … and then Russian infantry will run,” he said referring to the new arms aid announced by the Western allies.
Russian troops now occupy a fifth of Ukraine’s territory and Moscow has imposed a blockade on its Black Sea ports.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said “certain results have been achieved”, pointing to the “liberation” of some areas from what he called the “pro-Nazi armed forces of Ukraine”.
But the Ukrainian president remained defiant in a video message marking 100 days of the war.
“We have defended Ukraine for 100 days already,” he said. “Victory will be ours!”