© Reuters. A photo shows damage to an apartment building during the Ukrainian-Russian conflict in Popasna town in Ukraine’s Luhansk region on May 27, 2022.REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko
Max Hunder and Conor Humphries
Kyiv (Reuters) – Russian forces on Saturday intensified their assault on the Ukrainian city of Sivye Donetsk after claiming to have seized the nearby Lehman railway junction, as Kyiv stepped up its call for Western long-range weapons to fight help it fight back. Donbas region.
Russia’s slow but steady growth in recent days suggests a subtle shift in the momentum of the war, now in its fourth month. The invading force appears to have captured almost the entire Luhansk region of the Donbass, one of the more modest war goals set by the Kremlin after it abandoned its attack on Kyiv in the face of Ukrainian resistance.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said Saturday that its troops and allied separatist forces now had full control of Lehman, a railway junction west of the Donets River in the Donetsk region of Sivirski, adjacent to Luhansk.
However, according to the website ZN.ua, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hannah Maliar said that the battle for Lehman is still going on.
Sievierodonetsk, about 60 kilometers (40 mi) from Leman on the east side of the river, the largest Donbas city still under Ukrainian control, was under heavy attack by the Russians.
“Silver Donetsk is always under enemy fire,” Ukrainian police posted on social media on Saturday.
Russian artillery is also shelling the Lysichansk-Bakhmut road, which Russia must take to end the pinning movement and encircle the Ukrainian army.
“Lysychansk was severely damaged,” police said.
The governor of Luhansk, who forms the Donbass with Donetsk, said on Friday that Russian troops had entered Siver Donetsk. Ukrainian Governor Sergei Ghede said Ukrainian troops may have to retreat from the city to avoid capture. It was not immediately clear if they had begun evacuating on Saturday.
Ukrainian presidential adviser and peace negotiator Mikhailo Podoljak reiterated Saturday’s call for the delivery of U.S.-made long-range multiple rocket launchers. U.S. officials told Reuters that such systems were being actively considered and a decision could be made in the coming days.
“It’s hard to fight when you’re attacked 70km away and there’s nothing to fight back. Ukraine can get Russia back behind the Iron Curtain, but we need effective weapons,” Podoljak tweeted (NYSE: ) wrote.
In a late-night video address, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed hope for allies to provide the needed weapons, adding that he expected “good news next week.”
Ukrainian troops in the Donbas region said in a brief Facebook (Nasdaq: ) post that they were on the defensive throughout the day, fending off seven Russian attacks and destroying a tank.
About 90 percent of buildings in Donetsk were damaged, with the latest shelling destroying 14 high-rise buildings, Governor Gede said. Dozens of medics remained in Sivie Donetsk, but it was difficult for them to reach the hospital because of the shelling, he said.
Reuters was unable to independently verify the information.
Analysts at the Washington-based Institute for War Research said that while Russian forces have begun direct attacks on construction zones in West Ville Donetsk, they are likely to struggle to make progress in the city itself.
“The Russian military performed poorly in combat operations in dense urban areas throughout the war,” they said.
The military situation in Donbass is very complicated, Zelensky said, adding that fortifications exist in many places, including Silvie Donetsk and Lysichansk.
“The difficulties there are indescribable. I thank everyone who has weathered this shock,” he said in a late-night video address.
The British Ministry of Defence said in its daily intelligence report that if Russia succeeded in taking over the areas, the Kremlin could see it as a “substantial political achievement” that it could use to justify its invasion of the Russian people.
Zelensky said in a TV interview that he believed Russia would agree to talks if Ukraine could retake all the territory it had lost since the invasion began on February 24.
Still, Zelensky has ruled out the idea of using force to retake all the land Ukraine has lost to Russia since 2014, including Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow that year.
“I don’t believe we can recover all of our territory by military means. If we decide to go this route, we will lose hundreds of thousands of people,” he said.
Russia said it was launching a “special military operation” to demilitarize Ukraine and rid itself of threats from Russian-speaking nationalists there. Kyiv and Western countries say Russia’s claims are a false pretext for war.
Thousands, including many civilians, were killed and millions fled their homes to safer parts of Ukraine or other countries.
Multiple Russian airstrikes have hit communities and infrastructure near the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv, Ukraine’s General Staff said on Saturday. A Reuters photographer said a solar power station in the area was badly damaged after an apparent missile strike.
guns and food
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a joint phone call on Saturday, pushing for diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the conflict beyond Ukraine’s borders.
France said they urged him to lift Russia’s blockade of the port of Odessa to allow Ukrainian grain exports. The Kremlin said Putin told them that Moscow was open to discussing ways to enable Ukraine to resume shipments of grain from Black Sea ports.
Ukraine is a major food exporter, and the blockage of its exports could lead to food shortages in some countries, including Africa.
Meanwhile, the allies continued to supply Kyiv with weapons. Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said it had started receiving Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark.
Nonetheless, Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanichna said NATO had shown that it could not have a unified response to a Russian aggression.
“If Ukraine is defeated, we must speak clearly about the catastrophic consequences for the future of Europe as a whole,” she said in a Facebook post.