Russia is urging Ukraine’s government to give up its fight for an eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk critical to Moscow’s war effort.
Mikhail Mizintsev, chief of Russia’s National Defense Management Center, on Tuesday appealed to Ukraine to surrender as fighting continues in Severodonetsk, while also promising to allow civilians to evacuate. Mizintsev’s statement comes as hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians have taken refuge in the city’s Azot chemical plant.
Severodonetsk is seen as a potentially decisive battleground in Russia’s aim to establish dominance in the eastern Ukrainian Donbas region, home to a large population of Russian speakers and Moscow-friendly separatists.© ARIS MESSINIS/Getty ImagesAn aerial view shows destroyed houses after strike in the town of Pryvillya at the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 14, 2022, amid Russian invasion of Ukraine. – The cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, which are separated by a river, have been targeted for weeks as the last areas still under Ukrainian control in the eastern Lugansk region. Serhiy Haidai, a Ukrainian regional governor, said earlier this week that Russian forces had destroyed the last bridge out of Severodonetsk as they took control of 70 to 80 percent of the city.
Mizintsev told the Russian TASS news agency that Russia promised prisoners of war they would be kept alive and in compliance with international standards set by the Geneva Convention.
“Once again we urge the authorities in (Kyiv) to display prudence, to give the appropriate instructions to the militants to end senseless resistance and leave the territory of the Azot plant,” Mizintsev said.
A representative of the Luhansk People’s Republic, a Moscow-backed breakaway region in eastern Ukraine, said last week that about 300 to 400 Ukrainian soldiers were blocked at the Azot chemical facility in Severodonetsk along with nearly 500 civilians taking refuge in its bomb shelter.
Mizintsev said the Russian army along with a militia from Luhansk would open a humanitarian corridor on Wednesday to allow civilians from the Azot plant to evacuate. However, he said the humanitarian corridor would lead toward Svatovo in an area held by separatists.
Speaking to TASS on Wednesday, Mizintsev said Ukrainian forces “cynically disrupted the humanitarian operation,” halting the evacuation of civilians from the Azot plant and violating a ceasefire.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has continued to lobby Western leaders for more military aid. In a speech Wednesday, Zelensky said President Joe Biden had announced a new $1 billion support package including coastal defense, artillery and modern rocket systems, which he called “especially important for our defense in Donbas.”
Haidai reiterated the importance of Severodonetsk in a Telegram post on Wednesday.
“Severodonetsk is a key point in the defense operation system of Luhansk region,” he said. “The city can not be considered otherwise. Everyone who is in line today is a hero.”
Newsweek has reached out to the Ukrainian government for comment.