Russia destroys bridge over Ukrainian river, cuts escape route with other cities
Russian forces have blown up a bridge linking the embattled Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk to another city across the river, cutting off a possible evacuation route for civilians, local officials said on Sunday. Sievierodonetsk has become the epicentre of the battle for control over Ukraine's eastern region of Donbas. Ukrainian and Russian forces were still fighting street-by-street there on Sunday, the governor of Luhansk province, Serhiy Gaidai, said. Russian forces have taken most of the city but Ukrainian troops remain in control of an industrial area and chemical plant where hundreds of civilians are sheltering. But the Russians had destroyed a bridge over the Siverskyi Donets River linking Sievierodonetsk with its twin city of Lysychansk, Gaidai said. That leaves just one of three bridges still standing, and reduces the number of routes that could be used to evacuate civilians or for Ukrainian troops to withdraw to positions on the western side of the river. In Lysychansk itself, Russian shelling killed one woman and destroyed four houses and a shopping centre, Gaidai said. The head of the Sievierodonetsk administration said a little more than a third of the city remained under the control of Ukrainian forces and about two-thirds were in Russian hands.
"Our (forces) are holding the defensive line strongly," Oleksandr Stryuk told national TV. After being forced to scale back its initial campaign goals following its Feb. Sievierodonetsk is the last city in Donbas's Luhansk province still held by Ukraine and its loss would be significant strategic blow. Ternopil's governor said rockets fired from the Black Sea at the city of Chortkiv had partly destroyed a military facility and injured 22 people. Moscow has repeatedly criticised the United States and other nations for supplying Ukraine with weapons. Ukrainian leaders have renewed pleas to Western countries in recent days to speed up deliveries of heavy weapons as Russian artillery pounds the east of the country. To the south and southwest of Sievierodonetsk, Russian forces were firing mortars and artillery around a number of settlements, according to Ukraine's general staff. Ukrainian forces have proven more resilient than expected, but the U.
Putin says Russia's actions aim to disarm and "denazify" Ukraine. Also on Sunday, the leader of the Russian-backed separatist Donetsk region in the Donbas 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 the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic on Thursday found Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner - and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun - guilty of "mercenary activities" seeking to overthrow the republic. Britain says Aslin and Pinner were regular soldiers and should be exempt under the Geneva Conventions from prosecution for participation in hostilities. "I don't see any grounds, prerequisites, for me to come out with such a decision on a pardon," Denis Pushilin was quoted as saying by Russian news agencies. Aslin's family said he and Pinner "are not, and never were, mercenaries".
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