April 24, 2024

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Russia asks Ukraine to lay down arms in the Battle of Severodonetsk

Russia asks Ukraine to lay down arms in the Battle of Severodonetsk
  • Severodonetsk city center to fight for eastern Ukraine
  • Hundreds are trapped at the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk
  • NATO defense ministers are scheduled to discuss military aid to Ukraine

Kyiv (Reuters) – Russia told Ukrainian forces holed up in a chemical plant in the besieged city of Severodonetsk to lay down their weapons early on Wednesday, pressuring their advantage in the battle for eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine is calling for an increase in Western heavy weapons after Russia has allocated the bulk of its firepower to the eastern Donbass region, a topic expected to feature prominently at a meeting of NATO defense ministers on Wednesday in Brussels.

Ukraine says more than 500 civilians and soldiers are trapped inside an Azot chemical plant, where its forces have withstood weeks of Russian bombardment and assaults that have reduced much of Severodonetsk to rubble.

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Mikhail Mizintsev, head of the Russian National Defense Administration Center, told the Interfax news agency that the fighters “must stop their foolish resistance and lay down their arms” starting at 8 am Moscow time (0500 GMT).

Mizintsev said civilians would be allowed out of a humanitarian corridor.

The bombing of Azot reflects the earlier siege of the Azovstal steelworks in the southern port of Mariupol, where hundreds of fighters and civilians took shelter from Russian bombardment. Those inside surrendered in mid-May and were taken to Russian custody.

The region’s governor Serhiy Gaidai in Luhansk, one of two eastern provinces that Moscow claims on behalf of separatist proxies, said the bombing of Azot was so violent that “people can no longer tolerate it in shelters, and their psychological state is tense.”

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The Russian attack on Severodonetsk in Luhansk – a city of barely more than 100,000 people before the war – is currently the focal point of the so-called Battle of Donbass.

Kyiv said between 100 and 200 of its soldiers are killed every day and hundreds more are injured.

Ukraine is still trying to evacuate civilians from Severodonetsk after Russian forces destroyed the last bridge across a river to the Ukrainian-controlled twin city of Lysekhansk.

Russian forces bombarded Lysichansk, which is located on high ground on the western bank of the Seversky Donets River.

Things have changed several times over the past few weeks, and Ukrainian officials have given few indications that they will back down.

But with all the bridges leading from Sievierodonetsk now destroyed, the Ukrainian forces risk being encircled.

“We have to be strong… the more losses the enemy incurs, the less will it be able to continue its aggression,” Zelensky said in a speech late Tuesday.

‘Unable to leave’

Russia does not provide regular figures on its losses, but Western countries say it has been huge as President Vladimir Putin seeks to force Kyiv to relinquish full control of two provinces, Luhansk and Donetsk, known collectively as Donbass.

Momentum in Sievierodonetsk has changed several times over the past few weeks – Russia has focused its overwhelming artillery firepower on urban areas to wipe out resistance, then sends in ground forces vulnerable to counterattacks.

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Elsewhere in Donbass, Ukraine says Russia plans to attack Slovenia from the north and along a front near Bakhmut in the south.

During the past week, critical infrastructure including homes, schools, hospitals and markets have been attacked, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York, in Donetsk province.

“This has made life almost unbearable for people who are also facing severe water shortages, sometimes not being able to leave their homes for several days in a row due to the fighting,” Dujarric said.

In the south, the Ukrainian military said it launched three air strikes on troop buildups, fuel depots and military equipment in the Kherson region.


Ukrainian officials have renewed their appeals to the United States and its allies to send in artillery, tanks, drones, and other heavy weapons and the best.

Western countries have promised weapons that meet NATO standards – including advanced US missiles. But their deployment takes time, and Ukraine will require steady Western support to transition to new supplies and weapons systems as its Soviet-era arms and ammunition stocks dwindle.

The meeting is taking place on Wednesday on the sidelines of a meeting of NATO Defense Ministers chaired by US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. This is the third time that a group of about 50 countries has met to discuss and coordinate aid to Ukraine.

Washington has allocated about $4.6 billion in security aid since the Russian invasion on February 24, including long-range missile systems, drones, and advanced artillery.

But Zelensky said Ukraine does not have enough anti-missile systems to protect its cities, adding that “there can be no justification for delaying in providing them.”

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Ramy Ayoub and Stephen Coates. Editing by Grant McCall and Simon Cameron Moore

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.