Russian forces have fully occupied Severodonetsk, the mayor of the eastern Ukrainian city confirmed after weeks of fighting to hold the strategic town and latest symbol of Ukrainian resistance.
The fall of Severodonetsk – once home to more than 100,000 people, and now reduced to a wasteland of rubble by Russian artillery – is Moscow’s biggest victory since capturing the port of Mariupol last month.
“The city is now under the full occupation of Russia,” the city’s Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said on national television. He said anyone left behind could no longer reach Ukrainian-held territory, as the city was effectively cut off.
Media on Sunday reported that Russian missiles also hit residential buildings in Kyiv, wounding five people and burying others under rubble, in the first such attack on the Ukrainian capital in nearly three weeks.
Russian missiles also rained down on western, northern and southern parts of the country on Saturday as Europe’s biggest land conflict since World War II enters its fifth month.
The fall of the Severodonetsk transforms the battlefield in the east of Ukraine where Moscow’s huge advantage in firepower had until now yielded only slow gains.
Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Ukrainian attempt to turn the city’s Azot chemical plant into another centre of resistance had been thwarted.
Russia will now be hoping to press on and seize more ground on the opposite bank of the Siverskyi Donets river where Severodonetsk’s twin city Lysychansk is located.