Russian forces on Tuesday stepped up their offensive on the last pocket of resistance around Lugansk in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, as the conflict entered its fourth month.
Since Moscow’s invasion in late February, Western support has helped Ukraine hold off its neighbor’s advances in many areas — including the capital Kyiv — but Russia is now focused on securing and expanding its gains in Donbas and the southern coast.
“The coming weeks of the war will be difficult, and we must be aware of that,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday in his nightly address after regional leaders and residents reported heavy bombardments.
“The most difficult fighting situation today is in Donbas,” Zelensky said, singling out the worst-hit towns of Bakhmut, Popasna, and Severodonetsk.
The governor of Lugansk, in Donbas, said that Russia has sent thousands of troops to capture his entire region and that Severodonetsk was under massive attack, warning residents that it was too late to evacuate.
“At this point I will not say: get out, evacuate. Now I will say: stay in a shelter,” Sergiy Gaidai said on Telegram. “Because such a density of shelling will not allow us to calmly gather people and come for them.”
Residents of Bakhmut, a crucial junction that serves as a command center for much of the Ukrainian war effort, told AFP of the aerial onslaught they had suffered.