Russia demanded that Ukrainian forces entrenched in a chemical plant in Severodonetsk lay down their arms and surrender this morning.
It comes as Moscow’s forces close in on taking control of the strategically important city – one of the last in the Donbass region that they have yet to take.
Ukraine says more than 500 civilians and an unknown number of soldiers are trapped inside Azot, a chemical plant where they took shelter from a Russian bombardment that left much of the city in ruins .
Mikhail Mizintsev, head of Russia’s National Defense Management Center, told the Interfax news agency that Ukrainian troops should “stop their senseless resistance and lay down their arms” from 6 a.m. UK time. United.
He promised civilians could escape through a humanitarian corridor – although his words came a day after it was reported that two of the three bridges outside the city were destroyed, the third being old and dangerous.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said Azot civilians “can no longer bear it in the shelters, their psychological state is at an end”.
The situation is reminiscent of the Battle of Azovstal Steelworks in Mariupol, where hundreds of fighters and civilians took shelter until their surrender in May. Ukrainian soldiers in this case remain in the custody of the Russians.
Mr Haidai said the Russians control around 80% of Severodonetsk and he told The Associated Press that the mass evacuation of civilians was now “simply not possible”.
About 12,000 people remain in Severodonetsk, compared to 100,000 before the war.
• A senior US defense official told Foreign Policy magazine that Russia’s options are limited as Vladimir Putin refuses to officially declare war on Ukraine. The Russian president still describes the invasion as a ‘special military operation’, which means he cannot draw troops from the general population
• Farmers in Odessa have started their grain harvest, but Russia’s invasion will lead to a global shortage of wheat for at least three seasons, Ukraine’s agriculture minister said.
• Nightly shelling was reported in the Kharkiv region and the British Ministry of Defense said Russian forces appeared to have made small gains there for the first time in many weeks.
Losses in parts of Ukraine are ‘painful’
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said on Tuesday evening that the losses in Severodonetsk and Kharkiv, in the northeast of the country, had been “painful”.
“But we have to hold on – that’s our state,” he added.
Ukraine said between 100 and 200 of its soldiers were losing their lives every day, leaving hundreds injured. Russia did not provide figures, but its losses are also believed to be high.
The other main town of Luhansk which is still under Ukrainian control is Severodonetsk’s twin town, Lysychansk – but the loss of bridges means access between the two is difficult and fighters risk being surrounded by the Russians.
Ukraine continues to plead with Western powers for more weapons to help defend its remaining territory in Donbass, a region that includes Luhansk and Donetsk.
Russia claims to have destroyed a number of arms shipments from the United States and Europe in recent weeks.
Follow the daily podcast on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Spreaker
Russia bans senior British journalists
Also on Tuesday, Russia released a list of 29 British media and defense figures it has banned from the country.
The Foreign Office said the list was a response to the “deliberate dissemination of false and one-sided information” about the war by British media.
It includes Sky News chief correspondent Stuart Ramsay and political presenter Sophy Ridge, as well as correspondents from the BBC, Times and Guardian.