No way out for Ukrainians in embattled city as Russian forces destroy last bridge

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Russian forces cut off all routes for evacuating citi-zens from the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodo-netsk by destroying the last bridge linking it to a Ukrainian-held city on the other side of the river, a Ukrainian official said.

Russian troops were “trying to gain a foothold in the central part of the city”, the Ukrainian military said on Tuesday in its daily roundup of the conflict in various parts of the country.

“The situation in Sievierodonetsk is extremely aggravated — the Russians are destroying high-rise buildings and Azot,” Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region, said in a post on Telegram.

A day earlier he said hundreds of civilians were sheltering on the grounds of the Azot chemical plant, which had been shelled by Russian forces.

Ukraine has issued increasingly urgent calls for more Western heavy weapons to help defend Sievierodonetsk, which Kyiv says could hold the key to the battle for the eastern Donbas region and the course of the war, now in its fourth month.

On Monday Gaidai had said on social media that some 70% of the city was under enemy control, and the destruction of the last bridge across the river to the twin city of Lysychansk meant any civilians still in Sievierodonetsk were trapped, and it was impos-sible to deliver humanitarian supplies.

The latest Ukrainian military situation report was filled with foreboding over Russian forces building up in several parts of the Donbas.

Ukraine needs 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks, and 1,000 drones among other heavy weapons, Presi-dential Adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Monday.

Russia’s defence ministry said high-precision air-based missiles had struck near the railway station in Udachne northwest of Donetsk, hitting equipment that had been delivered to Ukrainian forces.

Ukraine’s interior ministry on Telegram said that Udachne had been hit by a Russian strike overnight Sunday into Monday, without mentioning whether weapons had been targeted. Ukraine has lost a quarter of its arable land since Russia’s invasion, notably in the south and east, the deputy agriculture minister said Tuesday while in-sisting that food security is not threatened.

“Despite the loss of 25 percent of arable land, crop planting this year is more than sufficient” to ensure food for the population, Taras Vysotskiy told a news conference.

He said national consumption levels had fallen “due to mass displacement and external migration” as millions fled to escape the fighting.

More than seven million people are estimated to have been displaced within Ukraine by Russia’s war, figures from the International Organization for Mi-gration (IOM) and the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) show.

But another 7.3 million have fled abroad, more than half of them to Poland. Despite the significant loss of land to the Russians, “the current situation of crop planting areas.. does not pose a threat to Ukraine’s food security,” he said.

“Ukrainian farmers managed to prepare relatively well for sowing before the war started,” he said.

“In February, Ukraine had already imported about 70 percent of necessary fertilisers, 60 percent of disease control products and about a third of the required fuel” for sowing, he said.

However, the invasion of several regions by Russian troops and the ongoing blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, preventing the export of grain, forced Ukrainian farmers “to change what they were sowing and how much,” Vysotskiy said.—Reuters