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Severodonetsk ‘taken’ in boost for Kremlin

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Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Picture by Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Picture by Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. Picture by Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP via Getty Images

Russian forces have “fully occupied” Severodonetsk in Donbas after weeks of fighting, Ukraine admitted yesterday, confirming the country’s biggest battlefield setback for more than a month.

Ukrainian officials said their forces had been forced to withdraw from the destroyed city to neighbouring Lysychansk, which lies across the Seversky Donets River, where there are now reports of street-to-street fighting.

“The city [Severodonetsk] has been fully occupied by the Russians,” said Oleksandr Striuk, head of the city’s military administration.

The fall of Severodonetsk is both a morale boost for the Kremlin and also a strategically important conquest.

It not only means that the Kremlin controls the largest cities in Luhansk, which makes up half Donbas, but also frees up its armies to capture the industrial cities of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk further west.

Vladimir Putin had become increasingly frustrated that determined Ukrainian resistance had slowed his far larger army in Severodonetsk.

British intelligence reports said that, under pressure from Putin to speed up its conquest of Severodonetsk, the Russian army had lobbed shells designed to sink aircraft carriers at Ukrainian forces.

The focus of the battle for Severodonetsk over the past few weeks has been the Azot chemical plant, a sprawling site that provided a defensive position for its defenders similar to the Azov steel works in Mariupol. Ukrainian troops there resisted the Russian onslaught for 82 days before surrendering in May.

However, Azot chemical plant does not have the same extensive tunnel network and was also pockmarked with potential poisonous chemical stores which made it far harder to defend.

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Quoting Russian army officers, a Russian news agency reported that the Azot chemical plant had now been captured.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the Chechen leader, said that the last 800 civilians sheltering in the site had left.


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