SLOVIANSK: Ukrainian officials have called on civilians to urgently evacuate the city of Sloviansk as Russian troops press toward it in their campaign to secure the Donbas region.
Sloviansk has been subjected to “massive” Russian bombardment in recent days, with at least two people killed and seven others wounded in an attack on a marketplace Tuesday.
Pavlo Kyrylenko, governor of the Donetsk region, which includes Sloviansk, told Ukrainian media his “main advice is evacuate!“
“This week there hasn’t been a day without shelling,” he said Tuesday evening, adding that the city was now within range of Russian multiple-rocket launchers.
“The enemy is shelling chaotically, the attacks are aimed at destroying the local population,” he said
“So, once again, the main advice is to evacuate.”
AFP journalists on the ground in Sloviansk saw rockets slam into the marketplace and surrounding streets, with firefighters scrambling to put out the resulting fires.
Kyrylenko also reported shelling across “the entire frontline” in the eastern Donbas region, where Russia has refocused its efforts since abandoning its initial aim of capturing Kyiv, following tough Ukrainian resistance.
Donbas is mainly comprised of Lugansk, which Russian forces have almost entirely captured, and Donetsk to its southwest — the current focus of Moscow’s attack
The fall of Lysychansk in the region on Sunday, a week after the Ukrainian army also retreated from the neighboring city of Severodonetsk, has freed up Russian troops to advance on Kramatorsk and Sloviansk.
On Tuesday, they were first closing in on the smaller city of Siversk — which lies between Lysychansk and Sloviansk — after days of shelling there.
Two Ukrainian Red Cross minibuses were heading there to evacuate willing civilians, according to AFP reporters.
“Heavy fighting is taking place on the outskirts of Lugansk region near Lysychansk,” Lugansk governor Sergiy Gaiday said on Telegram.
“The occupiers are withdrawing equipment to the Donetsk region.”
To the southwest, in the Moscow-occupied Kherson region, Russian troops have deployed helicopters and artillery to try to stem Ukrainian counter-attacks.
A spokesman for Ukraine’s defense ministry said Tuesday that Russian forces outside Donbas were “trying to bind our troops in order to prevent them from moving to the battle areas.”
Kherson city, which lies close to Moscow-annexed Crimea, was the first major city to fall to Russian forces in February, and has seen a campaign of so-called Russification since.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking in his evening address Tuesday, said he was continuing to press for upgraded anti-missile systems as air siren alerts sounded across much of the country, including the capital.
“The Russian army does not take any breaks,” he said.
“Our task is to hold on.”