Russia demolishes bridge over Ukrainian river, cutting off escape route

  • Ukrainian and Russian forces locked in battle for the Siverodonets
  • Shelter for hundreds at the chemical plant
  • Reports say an arms depot was attacked in the west

KYIV / LVIV, June 12 (Reuters) – Russian forces on Sunday demolished a bridge connecting the Ukrainian city of Siverodonetsk with another city across the river, cutting off a possible evacuation of civilians, local officials said on Sunday.

Siverodonetsk has become the center of the war for control of the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine. Some parts of the city have been plunged into bloody fighting since the Kremlin unleashed its invasion on February 24.

“The main tactical target of the invaders has not changed: they are pressing on Siverodonetsk, where fierce fighting is taking place – that is, for every meter,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zhelensky said in his nightly video speech that Russia’s military is trying to stabilize reserves. Forces to Donbass.

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Zhelensky said the image of a 12-year-old boy injured in the Russian strike is now the global face of Russia. “These facts underscore the way the world views Russia,” he said.

“Not Peter the Great, not Lev Tolstoy, but children were wounded and killed in Russian attacks,” he said, clearly comparing Russian President Vladimir Putin’s comments last week comparing Moscow’s military campaign to the Russian emperor Peter the Great’s conquest of the 18th century. Conducted by Sweden.

Ukrainian and Russian forces were fighting on the streets of Siverodonetsk on Sunday, Luhansk Governor Sergei Kaitoi said.

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Russian forces have captured most of the city, but Ukrainian troops control an industrial area and the Azot chemical plant, home to hundreds of civilians. “There are about 500 civilians on the border of the Azot plant in Sivirodonetsk, 40 of whom are children. Sometimes the army can evict someone,” Kaidoi said.

But Kaitoi said the Russians had destroyed a bridge over the Shivarsky Donetsk River, which connects Sivirodonetsk with its twin city, Lisyansk.

It is one of only three bridges still standing.

“If the bridge collapses after the new shelling, the city will be truly cut off.

In Lychisansk, Kaitoi said a six-year-old boy was killed in a Russian shelling.

Reuters could not confirm that account independently.

Strategic implications

Following the February 24 occupation of Ukraine and the need to re-measure its initial targets, Moscow has turned its attention to expanding control of the Donbass, which has been occupied by pro-Russian separatist territory since 2014.

The fall of Zhivrodonetsk in the last pocket of Ukrainian land in the strategic Luhansk region will take Russia a big step towards one of the goals that Putin calls “special military action.”

Elsewhere, Russian ship missiles destroyed a large warehouse of US and European weapons in the Ternopil region of western Ukraine, according to Russia’s Interfox.

The governor of Ternopil said rockets fired from the Black Sea in the city of Sortkiv partially destroyed the military facility and wounded 22 people. A local official said no weapons were stored there.

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Different accounts could not be confirmed independently by Reuters.

Moscow has criticized the United States and other countries for sending arms to Ukraine, threatening that the West would hit new targets if it provided long-range missiles.

Ukrainian leaders have recently renewed demands for more heavy weapons. On Sunday, General Valery Zalushny, head of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, said on Facebook that Ukrainian civil servants had spoken with General Mark Milli, a top U.S. military official, and reiterated his call for heavy artillery systems.

According to Ukrainian civil servants, Russian forces were firing mortars and artillery in the south and southwest of Siverodonetsk. But it said Ukrainian forces had thwarted Russian efforts to advance towards certain communities.

Reuters was unable to independently verify battlefield reports.

Putin says Russia’s actions are aimed at disarming and “destroying” Ukraine. Kiev and its allies are calling for an unprovoked war of occupation.

On Sunday, the leader of the pro-Russian separatist Donetsk region in Donbass said there was no reason to pardon two British nationals who were sentenced to death last week after being captured while fighting for Ukraine.

A court in Donetsk on Thursday convicted Aidan Aslin and Shawn – and Moroccan Brahim Sadun – of “mercenary activities” trying to overthrow the republic. read more

Britain claims that Aslin was a regular player who was exempted from prosecution for his involvement in combat operations under the Geneva Convention. Aslin’s family said he and later were “not mercenaries, never were.”

Separately, the family of former British soldier Jordan Cadley said on social media that he had been killed fighting for Ukraine in Siverodonetsk. read more

Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Pavel Polityuk; Editing: William Mallard, Francis Kerry and Diane Croft

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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