Russia attacks Ukraine: Severodonetsk ‘completely’ under Russian occupation

The eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk is now under complete control by Russian forces, the city’s top military administration official said Saturday.

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“The Russians have fully occupied Severodonetsk, our military has retreated to more prepared positions,” Oleksandr Striuk told Ukrainian TV, according to the BBC and CNN.

The move comes after months of artillery bombardments in the city, The Washington Post reported. Russian troops are now advancing toward the neighboring city of Lysychansk, regional governor Serhiy Haidai said early Friday.

The two cities and surrounding areas are the last major pockets of Ukrainian resistance in the region of Luhansk, according to The Associated Press. Nearly 95% of the region is under Russian and local separatist control, the news agency reported.

Severodonetsk, which once had a population of more than 100,000 people, has seen intense street fighting and most of its residents have fled, according to the BBC. The city’s population is now closer to 10,000, the AP reported.

Serhiy Hayday, a top commander in eastern Ukraine, told CNN that the military made the decision to evacuate “because the number of dead in unfortified territories may grow every day.”

Many civilians have been sheltering at the Azot chemical plant, but Striuk said the only way for residents to leave the facility was through the territory held by the Russians, the BBC reported.