Fighting rages around Severodonestk, contact made with Azovstal fighters


Russia was throwing “all its reserves” at Severodonetsk and attempting to cut off the key city in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region by blowing up bridges, Ukrainian officials said Saturday.

Interior minister Denys Monastyrskiy also said that Ukraine’s intelligence service had established contact with its soldiers who were captured by Russian troops at the Azovstal steel plant in the southern city of Mariupol.

Here is what you need to know about what’s happening in Ukraine.

1) Russia throwing ‘all its reserves’ at Severodonetsk

After Ukraine’s military recaptured parts of Severodonetsk in recent days, Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai said Saturday that the Russian army had regrouped and was “throwing all its efforts, all its reserves” at the city.

Speaking on Ukrainian television, Haidai said that Russian troops were blowing up bridges across the Siverskyi Donets River in a bid to prevent reinforcements from entering the city.

For both sides, the fighting in the east in recent weeks has been one of the deadliest phases of the war. Ukraine has said it is losing 60 to 100 soldiers every day.

Smoke rises in the city of Severodonetsk during heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian troops in the Donbas region on May 30, 2022.
Smoke rises in the city of Severodonetsk during heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian troops in the Donbas region late last month.Aris Messinis / AFP – Getty Images

NBC News has not been able to verify the claims, which came after Ukraine’s military said Russian troops had retreated from part of the city. Their withdrawal followed failed attempts to capture Bakhmut, a nearby town to the southwest, according to a Facebook post.

Russia will continue its military operation in Ukraine until all its goals have been achieved, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Friday.

2) Ukraine in contact with captured soldiers from Azovstal steelworks

Ukraine’s intelligence service has established contact with its soldiers who were captured by Russian forces at the Azovstal steel plant last month, Denys Monastyrskiy, the country’s interior minister, said late Friday.

“It is through them that we are learning about the conditions of the detention, nutrition and the possibility of their release,” he said in a televised statement, referring to Ukraine’s intelligence service.

The fate of captured troops has been uncertain since Russian troops stormed the sprawling site in the port-city of Mariupol in mid-May after a months-long siege.

Russia said it had captured almost 2,000 Ukrainian soldiers who surrendered after the plant was stormed. The Kremlin has said the fighters who surrendered will be treated according to international standards.

3) ‘Victory will be ours,’ Zelenskyy vows on 100th day of war

“Victory will be ours,” Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a short video message posted to his official Instagram account on the 100th day of the war.

The video showed the president and four members of the leadership, including the prime minister, outside the office of the president in Kyiv.

In a later video posted to his Telegram channel, Zelenskyy said there were three words that his country had been fighting for, “peace, victory, Ukraine.”

4) Putin denies Russia is blocking grain exports from Ukraine, blames West

Russia’s President Vladimir Putin denied reports that his forces were blocking grain exports from being shipped out of Ukraine and blamed the West for global supply chain problems.

“If someone wants to solve the problem of exporting Ukrainian grain — please, the easiest way is through Belarus,” Putin said in a televised statement. “No one is stopping it. But for this you have to lift sanctions from Belarus.”

Russian troops have captured the majority of Ukraine’s southern coastline, and its warships control its Black Sea ports, where the majority of the grain would be transported from. Ukrainian farmers have an estimated 22 million metric tons of grain stuck in storehouses.

Both Russia and Belarus has been hit by harsh Western sanctions over the past year, with more imposed after the invasion of Ukraine in February.

Two reporters for Reuters were injured and their driver killed on Friday after their vehicle came under fire as battles raged near the eastern city of Severodonetsk.

Photographer Alexander Ermochenko and cameraman Pavel Klimov were traveling in a car provided by Russia-backed forces on the Russian-held part of the road between Severodonetsk and the town of Rubizhne, 6 miles to the north, the news agency said.

Anastasiia Parafeniuk and Reuters contributed.