Ukrainian and Russian forces engaged in intense street-to-street fighting in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk on Monday, as Ukraine’s president said Russian troops were also intending to capture the key southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia.
The situation in Sievierodonetsk was “changing from hour to hour,” according to the head of the city’s administration, Oleksandr Stryuk, who spoke on television.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces had “every chance” to gain control in the city.
His assessment came after Luhansk regional Governor Serhiy Haidai suggested Ukraine had lost ground.
Haidai said, “Our defenders managed to undertake a counterattack for a certain time. They liberated almost half of the city. But now the situation has worsened a little for us again.”
Both Russia and Ukraine claim to have inflicted huge casualties on each other.
Zelenskyy told a news conference Monday that Russian troops also intended to capture Zaporizhzhia, in the southeast, to allow them to advance closer to the center of the country.
“The enemy wants to ... occupy the city of Zaporizhzhia,” Zelenskyy said. The city is an industrial hub with a prewar population of more than 700,000 people.
The Ukrainian leader said Monday he received confirmation from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson “of a new enhanced defense support package,” and that the two discussed ways to unblock Ukrainian ports and avoid a food crisis.
Britain announced Monday it is sending M270 multiple-launch rocket systems that can hit targets up to 80 kilometers away.
“We cannot stand by while Russian long-range artillery flattens cities and kills innocent civilians,” Johnson said.
Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address Monday, “I am grateful to Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the complete understanding of our demands and preparedness to provide Ukraine with exactly the weapons that it so needs to protect the lives of our people.”
Ben Wallace, Britain’s defense secretary, said support for Ukraine must change as Russia’s tactics change, and that the new rocket systems “will enable our Ukrainian friends to better protect themselves against the brutal use of long-range artillery, which Putin’s forces have used indiscriminately to flatten cities.” Wallace was referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Putin has warned that Moscow would hit targets “we haven’t yet struck” if the West went ahead with plans to send long-range rocket systems to Ukraine.
U.S. President Joe Biden said last week that the United States plans to send the Kyiv government $700 million in new weaponry that includes four precision-guided, medium-range rocket systems, helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, radars, tactical vehicles, spare parts and more.
Russia’s foreign ministry announced Monday new sanctions against 61 U.S. nationals in response to what it called “constantly expanding U.S. sanctions.”
Those listed include Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.
Some material in this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press.