SOLEDAR – Russian troops moved closer to capturing the key city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, but Kyiv’s hopes of repelling its invaders were bolstered by the US promise of more advanced missile systems to bolster its defenses.
“The Russians control 70% of Severodonetsk,” Luhansk region governor Sergiy Gaiday announced on Telegram, adding that Ukrainian forces would retreat to prepared positions.
“When the Russians take control of Severodonetsk in two or three days, they will deploy artillery and mortars and shell Lysyhansk more intensely,” he said.
Severodonetsk, a major industrial center and, together with Lysyhansk, the last pocket of resistance in the eastern Lugansk region, has become the target of massive Russian firepower since the failed attempt to take Kyiv.
Oleksander Motuzianyk, spokesman for Ukraine’s defense ministry, said there was “fighting in the streets” in Severodonetsk and the Russians had reached the city center.
“The Ukrainian Armed Forces are actively resisting them,” he said.
To give Ukraine’s underperforming military a boost, President Joe Biden has confirmed that more US weapons are on the way, allowing them to “hit bigger targets more accurately” in Ukraine.
The new weapon is the Himar Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MLRS, a mobile unit capable of launching multiple precision-guided rockets simultaneously.
They are the centerpiece of a $700 million package to be unveiled on Wednesday that also includes air surveillance radar, more short-range Javelin anti-tank missiles, artillery shells, helicopters, vehicles and weapons. spare parts, a US official said.
With a range of around 50 miles, they will allow Ukrainian forces to strike further behind Russian lines.
At an intelligence briefing, Western officials said Russia was making “gradual but fairly steady gains” but that even after taking Severodonetsk, “many more challenges lie ahead”.
“Some river crossings need to be completed after the (Ukrainian-controlled) kettle closes and we have already seen how difficult these river crossings are.”
West of Severodonetsk, in the city of Sloviansk, AFP journalists reportedly saw buildings destroyed by a missile attack that left three dead and six injured.
And on Wednesday, at least one person died and two others were injured in Soledar, between Sloviansk and Severodonetsk.
The European Union has also sent arms and money to Ukraine while imposing unprecedented economic sanctions on Moscow.
- Editor/ additional report by AFP