Russian forces “conducting an intense offensive” in order to take key town, Ukraine officials say


Smoke rises during shelling in the city of Severodonetsk on May 21. (Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images)

The Ukrainian presidential administration on Wednesday reported “fierce battles” around the industrial city of Severodonetsk in the eastern Luhansk region, with a top military official saying shelling of the town had increased “exponentially.” 

A statement on Wednesday from the presidential administration reported “fierce battles for Severodonetsk,” with constant mortar shelling, adding, “In the morning, with the support of artillery, the Russian occupiers are advancing on Severodonetsk.”

According to the statement, six civilians have died and eight were wounded in the region amid the stepped-up fighting. 

Serhiy Haidai, the head of the Luhansk region military administration, said the shelling of Severodonetsk had “increased exponentially” in recent hours. 

“Russian troops are very close; they can already fire mortars,” he said. “The fighting was on the outskirts of the city yesterday. [Russian] forces are being transferred here from different regions — from Kharkiv, Mariupol, even from Donetsk in order to push through in the Luhansk region at any cost.”

He added that “the next week is important; if they do not succeed by Saturday or Sunday, they will run out of steam, and the situation will at least stabilize for us.”

Elsewhere in Ukraine, the Russian military acknowledged Wednesday that it had launched cruise missiles at targets in Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia. A statement by Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov, the Russian defense ministry spokesperson, said the strikes on Zaporizhzhia had targeted production workshops of the Motor Sich plant, an aerospace facility. 

Ukrainian officials previously reported strikes in Zaporizhzhia and Dnipropetrovsk without giving extensive details on the facilities targeted. Officials in Zaporizhzhia subsequently posted video showing damage to a shopping mall. 

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