Russian forces have caused "catastrophic" damage as they continue to bombard Lysychansk and its twin city of Syevyerodonetsk in eastern Ukraine, where the situation has become "extremely difficult," Ukrainian officials say, as Moscow intensifies its offensive in ahead of an EU decision on granting Ukraine candidate status.
"Fighting in the Syevyerodonetsk industrial zone and catastrophic destruction in Lysychansk," the Luhansk region's military governor, Serhiy Hayday, said in a statement on social media on June 21, adding that Lysychansk had suffered from heavy Russian strikes over the previous day.
Ukrainian forces continue to defend Lysychansk and Syevyerodonetsk, where the most intense fighting is taking place, Hayday said.
Earlier, Hayday said on national television that Russian forces controlled most of Syevyerodonetsk but not the Azot chemical plant, where hundreds of civilians have been sheltering for weeks. He said the road connecting Syevyerodonetsk and Lysychansk to the city of Bakhmut was under constant shellfire.
"Lysychansk has been suffering from massive Russian shelling all day. It is impossible to establish the number of casualties as of yet," he said, adding that the shelling has been perhaps the heaviest the city had yet experienced.
However, the Russians have failed so far to complete an encirclement of Ukrainian forces, who were inflicting "significant losses" on them, he said.
While Russia has been concentrating its firepower on the Donbas, advanced Western weapons systems donated to Ukraine have begun to make their mark elsewhere on the front line, British military intelligence said in its daily bulletin on June 21.