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Ukrainian forces can "surrender or die" in key industrial city, pro-Russian separatists say

Living in fear of Russian troops returning
Residents of villages once liberated by Ukraine live in fear of the return of Russian troops 02:33

Ukraine said Monday its forces had been pushed back from the center of the key industrial city of Severodonetsk, where President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described a fight for "literally every meter." The cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, which are separated by a river, have been targeted for weeks as the last areas still under Ukrainian control in the eastern Luhansk region.

Regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said Monday Russian forces were "gathering more and more equipment" to "encircle" Severodonetsk.

Moscow's troops had "pushed our units from the center and continue to destroy our city," he said.

The local Azot chemical plant, where hundreds of civilians have reportedly taken refuge, was being "heavily shelled," Gaiday added.

Severodonetsk has been "de facto" blocked off after Russian forces blew up the "last" bridge connecting it to Lysychansk on Sunday, Eduard Basurin, a representative for pro-Russian separatists, said Monday.

Ukrainian forces in the area have two choices, he said, "to surrender or die."

Ukrainian soldiers talk during heavy fighting against Russia at the front line in Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region of Ukraine, June 8, 2022.
Ukrainian soldiers talk during heavy fighting against Russia at the front line in Severodonetsk in the Luhansk region of Ukraine, June 8, 2022. AP Photo/Oleksandr Ratushniak

Moscow-backed forces were also carrying out an offensive on the key city of Slovyansk, from "west, north and east," Basurin said.

The capture of Severodonetsk would open the road for Moscow to Slovyansk and another major city, Kramatorsk, in their push to conquer the whole of Donbas, a mainly Russian-speaking region partly held by pro-Kremlin separatists since 2014.

Ukrainian forces were fighting for "every town and village where the occupiers came," Zelenskyy said Monday in a message to mark the eighth anniversary of the liberation of Mariupol in the 2014 conflict.

The port city in southern Ukraine was captured by Russian troops in May after a weekslong siege.

"We are once again fighting for it and all of Ukraine," Zelenskyy said.

Presidential adviser Mikhaylo Podolyak said Monday that Kyiv needed more arms deliveries to stop the conflict.

"Being straightforward -- to end the war we need heavy weapons," he said on Twitter.

He listed items he said the Ukrainian army required, including hundreds of howitzers, tanks and armored vehicles.

Currently, Russia's massed artillery in the area of Severodonetsk gave it a tenfold advantage, the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian military, Valeriy Zaluzhny, said Sunday.  

"Every meter of Ukrainian land there is covered in blood -- but not only ours, but also the occupier's."

In Lysychansk, Russian bombardments killed three civilians, including a 6-year-old boy, Lugansk governor Gaiday said Monday.

While in the city of Donetsk, separatist authorities said three people were killed and four wounded in Ukrainian shelling on a market in the Budonivskyi district of the city.

On Monday, Amnesty International accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine, saying that attacks on the northeastern city of Kharkiv — many using banned cluster bombs — had killed hundreds of civilians.

"The repeated bombardments of residential neighborhoods in Kharkiv are indiscriminate attacks which killed and injured hundreds of civilians, and as such constitute war crimes," the rights group said in a report on Ukraine's second biggest city.

Away from the battlefield, World Trade Organization members gathered in Geneva Sunday, with the threat posed to global food security by Russia's war top of the agenda.

Tensions ran high during a closed-door session, where several delegates took the floor to condemn Russia's aggression, WTO spokesman Dan Pruzin told journalists.

Just before Russia's deputy economic development minister Vladimir Ilichev spoke, around three dozen delegates "walked out," the spokesman said.

On a farm near the city of Mykolaiv in the south, the harvest has been delayed by the need to undo the damage done by Russian troops that passed through the area in March.

"We planted really late because we needed to clear everything beforehand," including bombshells, Nadiia Ivanova, 42, told AFP.

The farm's warehouses currently hold 2,000 tons of last season's grain but there are no takers.

The railways have been partially destroyed by the Russian army, while any ship that sails faces the threat of being sunk.

Russia's invasion of its neighbor has prompted Finland and Sweden to give up decades of military non-alignment and seek to join the NATO alliance.

But Turkey is blocking their bids and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Sunday the issue may not be resolved in time for an alliance summit later this month.

The United States and Europe have sent weapons and cash to help Ukraine blunt Russia's advance, alongside punishing Moscow with unprecedented economic sanctions.

Russian forces said Sunday they had struck a site in the town of Chortkiv in western Ukraine storing U.S.- and EU-supplied weapons.

Russia's defense ministry said the strike destroyed a "large depot of anti-tank missile systems, portable air defense systems and shells provided to the Kyiv regime by the US and European countries."

The strike — a rare attack by Russia in the relatively calm west of Ukraine — left 22 people injured, regional governor Volodymyr Trush said.

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