The Russian-controlled separatists in Donetsk reported on Monday that the city was said to have been hit by the heaviest Ukrainian shelling since the beginning of the war. Four people were killed and at least 23 people were injured, local media reports said. A maternity clinic in the former metropolis caught fire, but nobody was injured there. The reports were not independently verifiable.

To protect the city and the People’s Republic of Donetsk, more troops from “allied forces”, i.e. the Russian army, are needed, said separatist leader Denis Puschilin, according to the DAN agency.

After pro-Russian forces took over the Ukrainian city of Svyatohirsk, the city’s mayor defected to the separatists. Vladimir Bandura hid his true attitude and, like many citizens of the city, was waiting for “liberation”, said the leader of the Donetsk People’s Republic, which Russia recognizes as a state, Denis Pushilin on Monday.

The Ukrainian armed forces lost control of the small town last week. Ukrainian media labeled Bandura a “traitor”. Officials had also defected in other regions.

Separatist leader Puschilin praised Bandura as the mayor who had stood by the citizens throughout “the whole difficult time”. Therefore he should remain in office. Now the destroyed infrastructure has to be rebuilt, including schools and medical facilities.

The arch monastery of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, which was shot at many times, is also located in Sviatohirsk and is one of the most important shrines of Russian Orthodoxy. Moscow Patriarch Kirill, who supports the war of aggression against Ukraine, has long had a reputation for wanting to keep Ukraine’s ancient religious sites for the Russian Orthodox Church under his influence. “The monastery is preserved, it needs repairs, we’ll make it like new again,” said Puschilin.

After weeks of fierce fighting, the Ukrainian army says it has been pushed back from the center of the strategically important city of Sievjerodonetsk in the Donbass region. The Russian army, with the support of its artillery, “partially” managed to push back the Ukrainian soldiers in the city center, the Ukrainian general staff announced on the online service Facebook on Monday.

The governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Hajdaj, also reported a “partial” success of the Russian troops on Monday night. Russian forces continued to “destroy” Sieverodonetsk, Hajday said on Facebook.

Moscow is providing its troops in the Luhansk region with “more and more equipment” to “encircle” Sieverodonetsk and neighboring Lysychansk, the Ukrainian regional governor said. According to him, three civilians have been killed by Russian bombardments in Lysychansk in the past 24 hours, including a six-year-old boy.

Sieverodonetsk and Lysychansk have been the scene of heavy fighting for weeks. They are the last two cities in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk region that Russia has not yet captured.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke of intense fighting in Sieverodonetsk late Sunday evening. The Ukrainian troops and the Russian army were fighting there “for every meter,” he said. Army chief Valeriy Zalushny said “every meter of Ukrainian land” in the region was “soaked in blood”. But not only the Ukrainian, but also the Russian army suffered heavy losses.

Hundreds of civilians have sought refuge in the Azot chemical plant in Sievjerodonetsk, according to Ukrainian sources. “About 500 civilians are staying at the Azot plant compound, 40 of them are children,” Governor Hajdaj said. Occasionally, the military succeed in evacuating individuals. The industrial area is under heavy fire, Hajdaj said on Facebook.

According to its own statements, the Ukrainian army now has a front of around 2450 kilometers to defend against ongoing Russian attacks. “Active combat operations are being conducted along 1,105 kilometers of this,” Commander-in-Chief Valery Saluschny wrote on Facebook on Monday night after a conversation with US General Mark Milley.

On some sections of the front, Ukrainian units have also counterattacked. Recently there have been reports of Ukrainian land gains on the border of the southern Ukrainian regions of Mykolaiv and Cherson.

According to British intelligence services, river crossings are likely to play a crucial role in the coming phase of the Ukraine war. A central part of Russia’s front line in the Donbass region lies west of the Seversky Donets River, the UK Defense Ministry said in an update on Monday.

Therefore, in order to make further progress in the Donbass, Russia must either carry out complicated flank attacks or undertake river crossings. So far, the Russians have often not been able to successfully master large-scale river crossings under fire. The Ukrainians, on the other hand, had repeatedly managed to destroy bridges before retreating.

Since the start of Russia’s war of aggression more than three months ago, the British government has regularly released intelligence information about its progress. Moscow accuses London of a targeted disinformation campaign.

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