Street fighting continued to rage on Saturday in the east of the city, where Russian soldiers and Ukrainian troops are still locked in battle.
“The situation remains difficult. The fighting continues, but unfortunately most of the city is under Russian control. Some positioning battles are taking place in the streets,” said Serhiy Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, who constitutes the Donbass with the neighbour. Donetsk region.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the fight for the strategic city could dictate the outcome of the war in the east of the country.
“Severodonetsk remains the epicenter of the confrontation in the Donbass,” Zelensky said during his nightly speech on Wednesday.
“It’s a very fierce, very difficult battle… Probably one of the most difficult in this whole war,” he added. “In many ways, the fate of our Donbass is decided there.”
Haidai said on Saturday Ukraine still controlled the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk, where 800 people are believed to have taken refuge, after a Russian-backed official claimed Ukrainian fighters were also trapped there.
“The story of the blockade of the Azot plant is a complete lie spread by Russian propagandists,” Haidi said on the Telegram messaging app.
Rodion Miroshnik, a Russian-backed leader of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, said on Saturday that up to 400 Ukrainian fighters were taking refuge in the factory complex, hiding alongside civilians in bomb shelters, and that negotiations for their surrender and the safe evacuation of civilians were underway.
“The fighters are trying to make demands, namely to allow them to leave the territory of the chemical plant with the hostages and to provide a corridor to get to Lysychansk. Such demands are unacceptable and will not be considered,” Miroshnik said. .
Death toll rises in Mariupol
Further south, in Mariupol, another 24 child deaths were reported by Ukraine’s attorney general’s office on Saturday, following Russian shelling during a months-long siege on the southern port city.
The blockade ended last month after Russian forces took control of the Azovstal steelworks where Ukrainian forces had locked themselves up.
This brings the total death toll of minors during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine to 287, the attorney general’s office said in a Telegram post. More than 492 children were injured during the war, according to the statement.
The statement adds that these figures are not complete, as work is underway to verify child deaths in other places where there is active fighting.
The bureau also said that 1,971 educational institutions were damaged by Russian bombardment, of which 194 were completely destroyed.
On May 25, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, Petro Andrushchenko – who also moved to Ukrainian-held territory – told CNN that Mariupol city hall officials believe that at least 22,000 residents of the city had been killed during three months of war.
Access to drinking water, internet connection and telephone services is unreliable in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, the report says, reflecting concerns of Ukrainian officials as Russia strives to provide basic public services to the civilian population in the areas it occupied.
“Ukraine will definitely win”
As Russian forces advance in their control of key regions of Ukraine and civilian casualties mount, Zelensky has remained firm in his position that Ukraine will overcome the Russian invasion.
Speaking in a special virtual address to the Shangri-La Dialogue, Asia’s premier defense conference, Zelensky said Ukraine will “definitely win” in its war against Russia.
“It’s the confrontation between the possible, which we and many people around the world need, and the impossible, which Russia is fighting so desperately for,” Zelensky said.
He added that Russia considers his country its “colony” and is doing everything possible to prevent Ukraine “from existing freely and independently”.
“Russia wishes to prevent our people from using their land, resources and water for their best interests. Russia wishes to steal them, and this active plunder of the territory which they have (succeeded) in occupying – they literally take everything away from them. “, added Zelensky.
“It is on the battlefield in Ukraine that the future rules of this world are decided and the limits of what is possible,” Zelensky said.
“Let’s save the whole world from going back to the time when everything was decided on the basis of the so-called law of force and certain peoples and their ideas, and many nations, did not matter,” Zelensky said.
Ukraine’s president also urged leaders to do whatever is necessary to “break the ability of Russia and any other country in the world to block the seas and destroy the freedom of navigation.”
Zelensky warned that failure to do so would lead to “acute and severe food crisis and famine” in many Asian and African countries. He added that the Black Sea, through which Ukraine exported most of its food before the Russian invasion, has become the most dangerous waterway in the world.
Before the war, wheat supplies from Russia and Ukraine accounted for nearly 30% of world trade, and Ukraine was the world’s fourth-largest corn exporter and fifth-largest wheat exporter, according to the US State Department. . The United Nations World Food Program – which helps tackle global food insecurity – buys about half of its wheat from Ukraine each year and has warned of dire consequences if Ukrainian ports are not open.
“Ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful for your support for Ukraine, I am grateful for your attention to Ukraine, to our country. But remember that this support and attention is not not just for Ukraine, but also for you,” Zelensky said. said.
CNN’s Kostan Nechyporenko, Jonny Hallam, Joshua Berlinger and Mariya Knight contributed reporting.