Russia’s bid to capture the key eastern city of Sievierodonetsk is faltering against a fierce Ukrainian counteroffensive that has reclaimed significant sections of the city, where Moscow has concentrated its troops with the goal of fully seizing the province of Luhansk.
Ukraine now controls “large” parts of the city, the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War reported, corroborating earlier statements from the governor of Luhansk. The city has been largely destroyed by intense back-and-forth fighting, and thousands of civilians remain sheltered in basements.
If Sievierodonetsk falls, Russia and its local separatist allies would then capture all of Luhansk, one of two provinces in the industrial Donbas region. The other province, Donetsk, is already largely under Russian control.
But Ukraine’s ability to push Russian forces back to the eastern outskirts of Sievierodonetsk, despite it being the Kremlin’s main focus, is evidence of Moscow’s declining combat power, I.S.W. said. The Ukrainian counteroffensive’s success in the city, the institute added, would likely continue to draw Russia’s focus and thus leave in it vulnerable in Kharkiv and regions of the south.
President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine visited eastern frontline positions in the Donbas region on Sunday, including the city of Lysychansk near Sievierodonetsk, his office said.
In other developments:
President Vladimir V. Putin maintained a confrontational stance on Sunday, issuing a thinly veiled threat that Russia would “strike targets we haven’t hit before” if the West were to continue supplying Ukraine with longer-range missiles.
Russia is attempting to profit from “stolen Ukrainian grain,” the United States is warning, by selling it to drought-stricken countries in Africa.
NATO and European Union nations bordering Serbia closed their airspace to Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, before his scheduled visit on Monday, Russian state media reported, citing a ministry spokeswoman.