Russian and Ukrainian troops engaged in close-quarter fighting Sunday in an eastern Ukrainian town. Moscow's soldiers were supported by heavy shelling as they attempted to establish a strategic foothold in the area. The leader of Ukraine also visited Kharkiv (the country's second largest city) to assess the strength and defense.
According to Ukrainian officials, Russian forces invaded Sievierodonetsk in the east after unsuccessful attempts to encircle this strategic city. The situation was described by Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the Ukrainian President, as "indescribably hard" due to a Russian artillery barrage that destroyed critical infrastructure and damaged 90% of the buildings.
Zelensky stated that "Capturing Sievierodonetsk" is the main task of the occupation force, and added that Russians don’t care about casualties.
According to the mayor of the city, fighting had disrupted power and cellphone services and forced the closure of a humanitarian relief center due to the dangers.
There were fears that Sieverodonetsk might become the next Mariupol. This is a city located on the Sea of Azov, which was under Russian siege for nearly three months before the last Ukrainian fighters surrendered.
The Russian border is 143 km (89 miles) from Sievierodonetsk. This city has become the center of Moscow's attempt to seize all of Ukraine's eastern industrial Donbas. Russia increased its efforts to capture Lysychansk nearby, where civilians fled the relentless shelling.
These two cities are located along the Siverskiy Donetsk River, which is strategically vital. These are the last areas of Ukrainian control in Luhansk Province, which includes the Donetsk and adjacent Donbas regions.
Zelenskyy visited Kharkiv soldiers, where Ukrainian fighters drove back Russian forces from near positions several weeks earlier.
"I feel boundless pride in our defenders. After the visit, Zelenskyy posted on Telegram that they were fighting for Ukraine's freedom every day and risk their lives.
Russia continues its bombardment of the northeastern town from afar. Explosions could be heard shortly following Zelenskyy’s visit. According to Oleh Syniehubov, the regional governor of the region, more than 2000 apartment buildings have been destroyed by airstrikes and shelling since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 24.
Zelenskyy gave a video address on Sunday, praising Kharkiv's regional officials, but he said that he had fired SBU the top security agency in the country for his poor performance. Zelenskyy stated that Russian troops held only one-third of Kharkiv's territory.
Russia's focus now is on the occupation of Donbas, despite not being able to seize Kyiv (the capital of Ukraine), which was seized by pro-Moscow separatists.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated to French TF1 television Sunday, that Moscow's "unconditional priority is the liberation the Donetsk-Luhansk region," and that Russia considers them "independent states."