Russia calls on Ukraine to lay down arms at the Battle of Sievierodonetsk

  • Sievierodonetsk city fighting center for eastern Ukraine
  • Hundreds trapped at the Sievierodonetsk Nitrogen Chemical Plant
  • NATO Defense Ministers will discuss Ukraine’s military aid

Kyiv, June 15 (Reuters) – Russia says Ukrainian forces locked in a chemical plant in the stormed city of Sievierodonetsk should lay down their arms early Wednesday, pushing their lead in the battle for control of the east of Ukraine.

Ukraine calls for an increase in Western heavy weapons after Russia has devoted most of its firepower to the eastern Donbas region, an issue that is expected to take a prominent place at a meeting of defense ministers. ‘NATO on Wednesday in Brussels.

Ukraine says more than 500 civilians are trapped alongside soldiers at the Azot chemical plant, where their forces have withstood weeks of Russian bombing and assaults that have reduced much of Sievierodonetsk to ruins.

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Fighters should “stop their senseless resistance and lay down their arms” by 8am Moscow time (0500 GMT), Mikhail Mizintsev, head of Russia’s National Defense Management Center, said at the Interfax news agency.

Civilians would come out through a humanitarian corridor, Mizintsev said.

The bombing of Azot echoes the previous siege of Azovstal steel in the southern port of Mariupol, where hundreds of fighters and civilians took refuge from Russian bombing. Those inside surrendered in mid-May and were arrested in Russia.

The bombings in Azot were so heavy that “people can no longer bear it in the shelters, their psychological state is at its limit,” said regional governor Serhiy Gaidai of Luhansk, one of the two eastern provinces that Moscow claims on behalf of separatist representatives.

The Russian assault on Sievierodonetsk in Luhansk – a city of just over 100,000 before the war – is now the focal point of what has been called the Battle of the Donbas.

Kyiv has said that between 100 and 200 of its soldiers die every day, with hundreds more wounded.

Ukraine is still trying to evacuate civilians from Sievierodonetsk after Russian forces destroyed the last bridge across a river to the Ukrainian-controlled twin city of Lysychansk.

Russian forces have bombed Lysychansk, which is on a higher ground on the western bank of the Siverskyi Donets River.

The ground has changed hands several times in recent weeks, and Ukrainian officials have given few indications that they will withdraw.

But with all the bridges leading from Sievierodonetsk now destroyed, Ukrainian forces are at risk of being surrounded.

“We have to stay strong … The more losses the enemy suffers, the less strength it will have to pursue its aggression,” Zelenskiy said in a speech Tuesday afternoon.


Russia does not give regular figures for its own losses, but Western countries say they have been massive as President Vladimir Putin tries to force Kyiv to relinquish full control of two provinces, Luhansk and Donetsk, collectively known as the Donbas.

The momentum in Sievierodonetsk has changed several times in recent weeks, with Russia concentrating its overwhelming artillery power on urban districts to eliminate resistance, and then sending vulnerable ground troops to counterattacks.

Elsewhere in the Donbas, Ukraine says Russia plans to attack Sloviansk from the north and along a front near Bakhmut in the south.

In Donetsk province, critical infrastructure such as homes, schools, hospitals and markets have been attacked over the past week, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

“This has made life almost unbearable for people who are also facing severe water shortages and sometimes cannot leave their homes for days and days because of the fighting,” Dujarric said.

In the south, the Ukrainian army said it had carried out three airstrikes on troop concentrations, fuel depots and military equipment in the Kherson region.


Ukrainian officials have renewed calls for the United States and its allies to send more and better artillery, as well as tanks, drones and other heavy weapons.

Western countries have promised standard NATO weapons, including advanced American rockets. But deploying them is taking time, and Ukraine will need constant Western support for the transition to new supplies and weapons systems as stocks of its Soviet-era weapons and ammunition dwindle.

Wednesday’s meeting on the sidelines of a NATO defense minister is chaired by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin. This is the third time that the group of about 50 countries has met to discuss and coordinate assistance in Ukraine.

Washington has pledged about $ 4.6 billion in security assistance since the Russian invasion on February 24, including long-range rocket systems, drones and advanced artillery.

But Zelenskiy said Ukraine does not have enough missile systems to protect its cities, adding that “there can be no justification for delays in providing them.”

Although Western sanctions have hit Russia’s economy hard, global oil and grain shortages have pushed up energy and commodity prices. And a speech by Putin on Friday at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum will be watched closely. Read more

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Reuters office reports; Written by Rami Ayyub and Stephen Coates; Editing by Grant McCool and Simon Cameron-Moore

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