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Russia destroys bridges into Sievierodonetsk in final push to take key Ukrainian city

Russia destroys bridges into Sievierodonetsk in final push to take key Ukrainian city
Ukrainian civilians take part in tactical training in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv on Saturday to learn military skills amid the Russian invasion. Photo by Mykola Tys/EPA-EFE

June 12 (UPI) -- Russian troops have destroyed two of the three bridges into Sievierodonetsk in a final push to take control of the key city in eastern Ukraine.

"The situation in Sievierodonetsk is extremely difficult. The racists destroyed the second bridge leading to the regional center at night," Serhiy Haidai, the head of the Luhansk Regional Military Administration, said Sunday in a statement to Telegram.

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"Fight now, the orcs are firing artillery at the last third overpass to the city, the Russians are throwing all their forces to 'cut off' Sievierodonetsk. The next two or three days will be significant."

Sievierodonetsk is the last remaining urban center in the Luhansk oblast of Ukraine, which makes up the larger Donbas region with the oblast of Donetsk. The Donbas region has largely been held by Russian-backed separatists since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.

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Before the invasion on Feb. 24, Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized the two oblasts as independent republics. Putin refocused the concentration of the war to the eastern region after suffering staggering losses in the rest of Ukraine.

Experts have said Putin will try to annex Donbas region into Russia in coming months.

Sievierodonetsk sits across the Seversky Donets River from the smaller sister city of Lysychansk which has also been under constant Russian shelling.

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Haidai said on Sunday that the Azot chemical plant, which Ukrainians still control, "is constantly under fire" on the Sievierodonetsk side of the river.

The British Defense Ministry said in an intelligence update Sunday that Russia "is using its overmatch in force ratio and artillery to gradually seize territory in and around Sievierodonetsk."

"Russia continues to seek to generate more combat units to deploy to Ukraine. In recent weeks, it has likely started preparing to deploy the third battalion from some combat formations," the intelligence update reads.

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The British Defense Ministry noted that most brigades normally only commit a maximum of two of their three battalions to operations at any one time because third battalions are often not fully staffed.

"Russia will likely have to rely on new recruits or mobilized reservists to deploy these units to Ukraine," the intelligence update reads.

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"Deploying all three of their battalions simultaneously will likely reduce formations' longer-term capacity to regenerate combat power after operations."

The Institute for the Study of War, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., similarly said in an analysis Saturday that "Russian force generation and reserves likely remain poor."

The think tank cited comments made by Vadym Skibitsky, deputy head of the Ukrainian Main Intelligence Directorate, in suggesting that Russia is "further adjusting its military objectives in an attempt to correct the initial deficiencies in the invasion of Ukraine."

Skibitsky said Ukrainian intelligence officials have received confirmed information that Russian forces "have extended their war planning for the next 120 days" -- likely taking the war into at least October 2022, according to the think tank.

Russian forces will adjust its war plan depending on whether it continues its successes in Donbas, Skibitsky said.

Russian missiles also struck the western Ukrainian city of Chortkiv in the Ternopil region late Saturday, the head of the Ternopil Military Administration Volodymyr Trush said in a statement to Telegram as reported by the Kyiv Post.

Trush said that 22 people were injured including children and that the missiles destroyed a military target as well as four homes.

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It was also revealed Sunday that a former British soldier has been killed fighting for Ukraine in Sievierodonetsk.

Jordan Gatley was shot dead Friday while volunteering to help Ukraine defend Sievierodonetsk, his family announced in a post Saturday to Facebook.

Data from the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees show that 4,904,207 individual refugees have left Ukraine since Russia invaded on Feb. 24 and more than 4,000 civilians have been killed.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, this weekend as he seeks backing for the country's bid to join the European Union.

Von der Leyen has been a vocal critic of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and previously met with Zelensky in Kyiv in April, presenting him then with the steps Ukraine would need to take to join the EU.

Jens Stoltenberg, the secretary-general of NATO, said Sunday that Turkey's concerns over Sweden and Finland joining the military alliance are "legitimate."

Sweden and Finland announced last month that the countries, which have long favored neutrality and nonalignment but like Finland, had changed their stances since Russia's invasion of Ukraine and would apply for NATO membership in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has voiced opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO on accusations that the countries have harbored members of the Kurdistan Worker's Party, a militant political group that seeks independence from Turkey.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen locations of former McDonald's restaurants sold after the American company pulled out of Russia have opened as the rebranded Vkusno & Tochka in Moscow and the surrounding region.

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