In the bitter battle for the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, Russian troops have gained territory and entered a suburb. “By shelling and storming, the enemy achieved partial success in the village of Metyolkine and is trying to establish itself there,” the Ukrainian general staff said in its situation report on Saturday evening.
The large village of Metyolkine is located south-east of Severodonetsk. Chechen ruler Ramzan Kadyrov had previously stated that Russian forces had completely taken over the town. The Russian armed forces are deploying several units from Chechnya with thousands of gunmen in Ukraine. In Metyolkine, officers and soldiers of the Ukrainian Ajdar battalion were voluntarily taken prisoner, the Russian agency TASS reported, citing the pro-Russian separatists of the Luhansk People’s Republic. This information could not be independently verified.
Russian troops are still not in control of the largely devastated Severodonetsk. However, the situation is becoming increasingly precarious for Ukrainian civilians who have taken refuge at the local Azot chemical plant. But they didn’t want to be evacuated, said the governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Hajday.
Meanwhile, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said that with the help of further arms deliveries from the West, Ukraine would be able to drive Russian troops out of the Donbass again.
More than 500 civilians in chemical plant
Hajdaj said 568 civilians, including 38 children, took shelter at the Azot plant. “There is constant contact with them. They have been offered evacuation several times, but they don’t want to.” The place cannot be compared to the Azovstal steelworks in the port city of Mariupol. “This is not an underground city. These are individual emergency shelters that are separate and not connected to each other.” Ukrainian defenders and civilians had held out for weeks in a bunker system under the Azovstal steelworks, long after Mariupol had been conquered by Russian troops.
The Russian side had announced the creation of a humanitarian corridor for Wednesday through which civilians would flee from the chemical plant to Russian-controlled territory. However, the Ukrainians mistrusted the Russian promises. The Russians, in turn, accused Ukrainian soldiers of using force to prevent civilians from escaping.
Russia is throwing all its reserves into battle to capture Severodonetsk and the city of Bakhmut, Hajday said of the military situation in Donbass. According to the General Staff, the fighting for Severodonetsk continues unabated. Accordingly, Russian troops shelled the administrative center of the Luhansk region with heavy artillery. However, an attempted storming of the Ukrainian positions in the city’s industrial area failed. Russian storming attempts were also unsuccessful in Syrotyne, a village west of Metjolkine.
Russian troops also used artillery against a number of towns in the Kharkiv region. In the direction of Sloviansk, the enemy is trying to create favorable conditions for an offensive by using heavy weapons, according to the situation report. At the same time, the Ukrainian military leadership emphasized that Russian attempts to carry out forcible reconnaissance in the Krasnopillya region resulted in heavy casualties for the attackers. The Russian advance on the Sloviansk-Kramatorsk area, where the headquarters of the Ukrainian armed forces in the Donbass is located, continues to falter.
Russians destroy oil tanks
Russian troops destroyed oil tanks near the central Ukrainian city of Dnipro with a rocket attack on Saturday. The regional administration reported three rockets that hit the depot in the Novomoskovsk district. “There is a strong fire,” said the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, Valentyn Resnichenko. Eleven people were injured. Russian missiles hit a factory that processes gas near the city of Izyum. There was a big fire there too.
After a series of international meetings in Kyiv, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visited the front again on Saturday. He was in the south first in Mykolaiv, later in Odessa. The Ukrainian president had previously been on the eastern front with stations in Kharkiv, Zaporizhia and Donbass.
Upon his return, Zelenskyi declared Russian territorial claims in southern Ukraine null and void. “We will not give anyone the south.” Ukraine will take back its territory and also restore safe access to the sea, he said. In the first days of the war, Russia captured the entire Ukrainian coast on the Sea of Azov and parts of the Ukrainian Black Sea coast in the Kherson region.
Stoltenberg: War could last for years
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expects the war in Ukraine to last for years. “We have to prepare for the fact that it could take years,” he told the “Bild am Sonntag”. Therefore, one should not let up in supporting Ukraine against Russia.
The cost of doing so is high because military aid is expensive and energy and food prices are rising. But that is no comparison to the price that Ukraine pays with many lives every day. If the Russian President Vladimir Putin is not resolutely opposed, “then we will pay a much higher price”.
Stoltenberg expected Ukraine to be able to drive Russian troops out of Donbass again with the help of further arms deliveries from the West. “Ukrainians are bravely defending themselves against the Russian invaders,” he said. The western defense alliance will not intervene in the fighting itself. As a clear signal to Moscow, they have strengthened their own defense with 40,000 soldiers under NATO command.