Russia promises Sievierodonetsk corridor | PerthNow
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Russia promises Sievierodonetsk corridor | PerthNow

Russia plans to set up an escape corridor for civilians trapped at the Azot chemical plant in disputed Sievierodonetsk as Ukrainian defenders tried to hold out against Russian forces.

The Russian defense ministry said the humanitarian corridor, which will allow civilians to travel north towards Svatove, will be open on Wednesday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Russia promises Sievierodonetsk corridor |  PerthNow

Located in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, Svatove is controlled by pro-Russian separatists and recognized as a state by Russia.

Russia refused to allow those detained – up to 560 people – to flee to Lysychansk, under Ukrainian control, as Ukraine had suggested.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Mikhail Mizintsev claimed the approach would only serve Ukrainian fighters, as in Mariupol.

“A safe evacuation of all peaceful civilians is guaranteed – without exception,” Mizintsev said.

He called on Ukrainian fighters to lay down their weapons and surrender, promising their lives would be spared.

“Russian troops try to storm the city, but the army holds out,” said the Ukrainian mayor of Sievierodonetsk, Oleksandr Stryuk.

He described the situation as “very difficult”.

Although the last bridge over the Siverskyi Donets River had been felled, citizens were still allowed to leave Sievierodonetsk “every minute when there is a silence, and there is a possibility of transportation,” Stryuk said.

“Every possible opportunity is taken.”

Ukraine says more than 500 civilians are trapped in Azot, a chemical factory where its forces have resisted for weeks Russian bombings and attacks that have reduced much of the city to ruins.

Regional Governor Serhiy Gaidai said: “The shelling is so strong that people can no longer tolerate it in the shelters; their psychological state is on the brink. In recent days, the residents are finally ready to leave.”

Both sides claim massive casualties in the fighting for the city, Russia’s main target in the battle for the country’s east.

Ukraine still owns Lysychansk, the sister city of Sievierodonetsk, located higher on the river’s west bank.

But now that all bridges have been cut, the troops recognize the threat of being surrounded in Sievierodonetsk.

Damien Megrou, the spokesman for a unit of foreign volunteers helping to defend Sievierodonetsk, said there was a risk that “a large pocket of Ukrainian defenders would be cut off from the rest of Ukrainian forces” — such as in Mariupol, the Black Sea port that surrendered last month after months of Russian siege.

The battle for Sievierodonetsk – a city of just 100,000 before the war – is now the biggest in Ukraine as the conflict has turned into a war of attrition.

Ukraine has said it loses 100-200 soldiers daily, with hundreds injured.

Momentum in Sievierodonetsk has shifted several times in recent weeks — with Russia concentrating its overwhelming artillery firepower on urban districts to wipe out resistance, then sending ground troops vulnerable to counter-attacks.

Larger battles could lie ahead for the wider area of ​​the Ukraine-held Donbas region, almost all across the river that Russian troops found difficult to cross.

Ukraine says Russia is moving en masse to attack Sloviansk from the north and along a front near Bakhmut in the south.

Beyond the Donbas, Ukrainian officials hope that Russia’s focus on conquering the east will divert its forces from other areas and pave the way for counter-attacks to retake another territory.

with coverage from Reuters