KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The Russian military said it used long-range missiles Wednesday to destroy a depot in the western Lviv region of Ukraine where ammunition for NATO-supplied weapons was being stored.
Those strikes came as fighting raged for the city of Sievierodonetsk in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas area, the key focus of Russia’s offensive in recent weeks.
Russia-backed separatists accused Ukrainian forces of sabotaging an evacuation of civilians from the city’s besieged Azot chemical plant, where about 500 civilians and an unknown number of Ukrainian fighters are believed to be sheltering from missile attacks. It wasn’t possible to verify that claim.
A humanitarian corridor from the Azot plant had been announced a day earlier by Russia but they said it would take civilians to areas controlled by Russian forces, not Ukrainian ones.
The Ukrainian governor of Luhansk Serhiy Haidai on Wednesday refused to comment on Russian statements regarding a humanitarian corridor for civilians at the plant, but told The Associated Press that “heavy fighting in Sievierodonetsk continues today as well.” The situation in the city is getting worse, Haidai admitted, because Russian forces have more manpower and weapons.
“But our military is holding back the enemy from three sides at once,” Haidai said. “The enemy is advancing because of significant advantage in artillery and people, but the Ukrainian army is holding on to its positions in the city.”
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said Russian forces used high-precision Kalibr missiles to destroy the depot near the town of Zolochiv in the Lviv region near the border with NATO member Poland.
Konashenkov said M777 howitzers, a type supplied by the United States, were being stored there. He said the Russian airstrikes also destroyed Ukrainian “aviation equipment” at a military aerodrome in the southern Mykolaiv region.
The strikes came as Ukraine keeps up its pressure on Western countries to deliver more arms and as NATO countries pledge more heavy weapons for Ukraine.
In recent days, Ukrainian officials have spoken of the heavy human cost of the war, with the fierce fighting in the east becoming an artillery battle that has seen Kyiv’s forces outgunned and outnumbered.
“The losses, unfortunately, are painful, but we have to hold out,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Tuesday in his nightly video address. “The more losses the enemy suffers there, the less strength it will have to continue the aggression. Therefore, the Donbas is key to determining who will dominate in the coming weeks.”
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelenskyy, tweeted Wednesday that he gets a daily message from the Ukrainian defenders there saying: “We are holding on, just say: when to expect the weapons?” He said that is the same message he has for NATO leaders.
Meanwhile, the deputy chair of Russia’s Security Council and Russian former president Dmitry Medvedev suggested that Russia appears intent on the destruction of its neighbor.
In a Telegram post, he wrote that he saw reports that Ukraine wants to receive liquified natural gas in a deal from its “overseas masters” with payment due in two years.
He added: “But there’s a question. Who said that in two years Ukraine will even exist on the map of the world?”
Medvedev has been making harsh statements against Ukraine and the West since the war began.
Karmanau reported from Lviv.