Time is fast running out for the thousands of people still in the besieged city of Severodonetsk and the odds are very much against them.
We managed to make one of the last trips in and out before the Ukrainian military shut down the remaining useable bridge into the city because of heavy shelling.
The city has come under intense and sustained bombardment over the past few days as the two sides slug it out for control. There has been no let-up day or night.
And to us, it seems the Russian troops are making inroads. They’re throwing everything they can at taking this city – shelling, pounding, missile strikes and signs that they have ground troops not only on the city perimeters but inching their way in.
Volunteers who have been trying to deliver food and water to residents trapped in their homes by the raging battle have come under fire – they believe – from Russian soldiers.
One was shot in the arm but when they ran for cover at the nearby residential houses they’ve been delivering aid to, those inside bolted their doors and refused them entry. It’s not clear why they did this but it speaks to the fear, suspicion and split loyalties in this city which is fast turning into a focal point for the Russian military.
A whole lot worse
But the Ukrainian troops are vastly outnumbered. The Ukrainian president has warned by as much as seven to one in some areas of the Donbas.
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It feels like it’s simply a matter of time before this key city in the Donbas area of Luhansk falls under Russian control. And if it does, the fear is, it will be the catalyst for the Russians to move further into the Donbas and Donetsk – the second area which makes up the region.
The situation is dire for those inside Severodonetsk and it seems very likely it’s about to get a whole lot worse.
They’ve had no power, communications or running water for weeks. There’s little movement around the city because of the constant bombardment. Those still inside the city emerge from basements or shelters simply to cook and forage for water.
Evacuations have halted because the routes in are coming under heavy attack and the sole operational hospital is cut off by the battle exploding around it. Most patients have been taken out but we understand about ten may still be there.
Ukraine’s commander in chief of its armed forces – Valerii Zaluzhnyi – urged Western countries to send more deliveries of long range weapons. ‘We are in great need of weapons that will make it possible to hit the enemy from a long distance,” he was quoted as saying in the Kyiv Independent.
President Zelenskyy has warned the end of this war is likely to see some of its bloodiest battles. We saw one unravelling in Severodonetsk.
The next few days and weeks look exceedingly bleak for the city.