Severodonetsk and its neighboring city, Lysichansk, remain under intense Russian bombardment as Moscow approaches control of the last pocket of resistance in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Heyday said on Wednesday that Russian forces are moving towards Lysechansk, targeting police, state security and prosecutors’ buildings.
“Lysychansk constantly suffers from enemy fire … Intensive bombardment has significantly destroyed infrastructure and housing,” Heidi said in a post on Telegram.
He added that Severodonetsk was being bombed “every day”.
Ukrainian officials have said the coming days will be crucial to Russia’s efforts to seize Severodonetsk, as fears are growing in Kyiv that the Russian advance could envelop the entire region.
Russia is now believed to control all of Sievierodonetsk except for the Azot chemical plant, where about 500 Ukrainian citizens and an unknown number of Ukrainian troops are hiding.
Oleksiy Aristovich, an advisor to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, said on Tuesday evening, that Russian forces may soon isolate Severodonetsk and Lysechhansk from Ukraine-controlled territories.
“The threat of a tactical victory for Russia is present, but they have not yet done it,” he said in a video clip on the Internet.
Russia had been aiming to capture Severodonetsk and Lyschansk for months, bombing much of the area’s civilian infrastructure in the process.
Control of the two cities would give Moscow command of the entire Luhansk region and allow its forces to focus on the neighboring Donetsk region. The Luhansk and Donetsk provinces are collectively known as Donbass.
During his nightly video address on Tuesday, Zelensky admitted that the military situation in Luhansk was very difficult as Russia intensified its efforts to drive Ukrainian forces out of key areas.
“This is really the hardest spot. The occupiers are pressing very hard,” he said.
And the British Ministry of Defense, in its latest intelligence briefing, said that Russia is “probably preparing to try to deploy a large number of reserve units in Donbass”, in an attempt to make further gains in the region. Britain also said pro-Russian separatists were experiencing “extraordinary attrition” in Donbass.
Elsewhere in Ukraine, Russia resumed its bombing of Kharkiv, the country’s second-largest city, on Wednesday morning.
On Tuesday, the region’s governor, Oleh Senegubov, said that at least 15 civilians were killed in the Kharkiv region as a result of Russian attacks on civilian infrastructure.
The city, which has returned to normal after Ukraine pushed back Russian forces, saw some of the worst Russian bombing so far in the past week, as fears grow in Kyiv that Russia is launching another attack on the city.
Ukraine’s military on Wednesday provided more details about Monday’s attack on Snake Island, saying it destroyed a Russian air defense system, a radar facility and vehicles on the strategically important Russian-controlled Black Sea island.
The Russian Defense Ministry said it prevented the Ukrainian attack, which Moscow claimed was intended to land Ukrainian soldiers on the island.
“The unsuccessful fire attack forced the enemy to abandon the landing on Snake Island,” the Russian military said in a statement.
Satellite imagery provided by US-based Maxar Technologies showed an overview of Snake Island on Tuesday, with damage to the tower on the island’s southern tip and burnt vegetation in several places.
Meanwhile, Ukraine was accused on Wednesday of using two drones to strike a major Russian oil refinery in the Rostov region near the border with Ukraine.
“As a result of terrorist actions from the western borders of the Rostov region, two unmanned aerial vehicles hit the technological facilities in Novoshakhtinsk,” factory representatives said in a statement.
Footage on social media on Wednesday morning showed a drone flying towards the refinery, which is located just five miles from the border with Ukraine, before a fire broke out.
Pro-Russian separatists also accused “Ukrainian saboteurs” of carrying out a “failed assassination” of the mayor of a Moscow-appointed town outside Kherson, a Russian-occupied Black Sea port city.
The Russian TASS news agency, citing local security services, said that the mayor of the town of Chernobyvka, Yuri Tulev, was slightly injured as a result of a car bomb explosion.
It is difficult to gauge the extent of the partisan warfare in Kherson, with little information pouring in from the occupied area, but several attacks in Kherson on Russian soldiers as well as Ukrainian officials who switched their allegiance to cooperate with the Russians have recently been reported.