Ukraine’s position has ‘worsened’ in fight for Severodonetsk

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Russia escalated its assault against Ukraine on the battlefield Monday, pummeling a city that has emerged as a key battleground in the east as Moscow expanded sanctions against those who have condemned its actions during the war.

The fight for Severodonetsk has “worsened for us,” Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region, said in a televised interview. While Russian troops have expanded their presence in the city and are shelling it, Ukrainian troops still control its industrial area.

The creeping losses come as the West scrambles to send Ukraine more firepower as fighting in the country’s eastern Donbas region intensifies. On Monday, Britain said it would send rocket launch systems that can be used to strike targets up to 50 miles away despite threats from the Kremlin that it would retaliate. This announcement comes after the United States pledged to send similar weapons to Ukraine.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on May 29 that Russian shelling has destroyed all of the critical infrastructure in Severodonetsk, Ukraine. (Video: Reuters)

It will take at least a few weeks for Ukrainian forces to be trained in how to use the longer-range weapons, U.S. officials have said, and it remains unclear whether the West’s combined efforts to arm Ukraine with more powerful systems will be enough to beat back Russia’s recent advances.

Ukrainian leaders have sought to buoy troops’ morale. According to President Volodymyr Zelesky, who visited Lysychansk units the day before, Ukraine has “every opportunity” to retake the city. Kyrylo Budanov was the chief of military intelligence in Ukraine and indicated that “the occupiers’ were slowly being driven out of Severodonetsk.

The killing of Russian Maj. Gen. Roman Kutuzov, confirmed by Russian state media, appeared to bolster those claims. Russian media or officials confirmed that Kutuzov died in Ukraine. Ukraine claims to have killed 12 generals, apart from Kutuzov.

Yet on Monday, Zelensky acknowledged the Ukrainian forces “holding out” in Severodonetsk and Lysychansk were outnumbered by “stronger” Russian troops, according to reports. He also referred to both places as “dead cities.”

Speaking at the annual D-Day commemoration in France on Monday, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark A. Milley compared the suffering of Ukrainians to the “horrors” experienced “at the hands of the Nazi invaders” during World War II. Milley, along with his counterparts representing other countries that support Ukraine, are currently meeting in Normandy to talk about how they can help the government in Kyiv.

“The world has come together in support of the defense of Ukraine against a determined invader,” Milley said, adding the fight now is about preserving the principle that “strong countries cannot just invade small countries.”

“That aggression,” he said, “cannot be left to stand.”

At the United Nations in New York, Ukrainian officials testified about worsening sexual violence in Ukraine. Natalia Kabrowska, of the Ukrainian Women’s Fund, told a session of the U.N. Security Council about how Russian troops use rape “as terror to control civilians in temporarily occupied territories.” The United Nations has received 124 reports of sexually based violence during the war, which is the “tip of the iceberg,” said Pramila Patten, the U.N. special representative on sexual violence in conflict.

The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency also reported “extremely stressful and challenging working conditions” at a nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, which is under Russian control, and regulators have yet to be able to visit.

Meanwhile, the British Defense Ministry reported Monday that Russia is likely have installed new air defense systems in the Black Sea, south of Odessa on Snake Island. According to the British Defense Ministry, Russia is likely to have installed new antiaircraft missile systems in the Black Sea. This would give cover to its ships that operate within this area. Ukrainian forces are known to be vulnerable. After Ukraine claimed it had attacked the Russian Black Sea vessel, the Moskva, with anti-ship missiles, the ship sank. In February, Snake Island was occupied by Ukrainian fighters who refused to yield to the Moskva’s demands.

Russia has begun to turn over to Ukraine the bodies of Ukrainian fighters killed during the siege of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, the Associated Press reported Monday.

The identities of the remains have been confirmed by DNA testing.

Russia and the West also traded punitive measures against prominent individuals, as Moscow blacklisted more than 60 Americans, including Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen, and a federal judge in New York approved the U.S. Justice Department seizing two private jets owned by Roman Abramovich, a Russian oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Abramovich, who until recently owned the British Chelsea F.C. soccer team and has served as go-between Putin and Zelensky since hostilities began, is accused of violating federal law by re-exporting his planes, which were made in the United States and worth more than $400 million.

Shayna Jacobs, Lateshia Beachum, Dan Lamothe, Robyn Dixon, Karen DeYoung and Bryan Pietsch contributed to this report.

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