Russia claims it downed Ukraine fighter jet; controls much of key Donbas city, per U.K. analysis
Updates from Day 99 of the invasion
- Zelensky says Russia currently occupies about 20 per cent of Ukraine.
- Severodonetsk in Luhansk continues to take fire, with at least 4 new deaths.
- Russia says it downed a Ukraine fighter jet in Mykolaiv.
- NATO’s Stoltenberg in Washington to meet with President Biden.
- Britain to arm Ukraine with rocket system.
- Latest U.S. Treasury move targets Putin yachts.
Russian forces were attempting to extend and consolidate their hold on Ukraine’s industrial city of Severodonetsk on Thursday, edging closer to claiming a big prize in their offensive in the eastern Donbas region.
After days of heavy fighting around Severodonetsk, much of which has been laid to waste by Russian bombardment, Russian troops were inching forward through city streets. Ukraine says about 70 per cent of the city is under Russian control, with Russian troops in the city centre.
“The enemy is conducting assault operations in the settlement of Severodonetsk,” Ukraine’s armed forces general staff said on Thursday, adding that Russian forces were also attacking in other parts of the east and northeast.
At least four civilians were killed and 10 wounded in the east and northeast, other officials said.
Russia denies targeting civilians.
Russia is currently occupying about 20 per cent of Ukraine’s territory, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Luxembourg’s parliament in a video address on Thursday.
“We have to defend ourselves against almost the entire Russian army. All combat-ready Russian military formations are involved in this aggression,” he said, also noting that the front lines of battle stretched across more than 1,000 kilometres.
Zelensky told a U.S. media outlet earlier this week that Ukraine was losing between 60 and 100 soldiers a day in the fighting.
Civilians in bomb shelters in Luhansk
Luhansk’s regional governor, Serhiy Gaidai, told Reuters that civilians were sheltering from Russian attacks under a Severodonetsk chemical plant that he said was hit by an airstrike on Tuesday, releasing a large pink cloud.
“There are civilians there in bomb shelters, there are quite a few of them left,” Gaidai said. Reuters could not independently confirm the account.
About 15,000 people remained in the city, Gaidai said.
Britain’s defence ministry said in its daily intelligence update Thursday that Russia controlled most of the city, which before the war had a population of about 101,000, and that Ukrainian forces had destroyed bridges over the river to Lysychansk.
Capturing all of Luhansk — one of two provinces in the Donbas along with Donetsk that Moscow claims on behalf of separatists — would fulfil one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main aims and solidify a shift in battlefield momentum after his forces were pushed back from the capital Kyiv and from northern Ukraine.
Donetsk’s governor said Thursday that Russian forces are attempting to advance south in that region towards the key Ukrainian-held cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.
“The Lyman and Izyum fronts are the main directions in which the enemy is trying to advance in order to capture the territories of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, [their] key aims in the north of the region,” Donetsk governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told a briefing.
Kyrylenko also said 340,000 residents remained in the Ukrainian-controlled part of the Donetsk region, out of a pre-war population of 1.67 million.