In Sievierodonetsk, Russia Has Told Ukraine To Lay Down Its Armaments

As it seeks to retain momentum in its campaign for control of eastern Ukraine, Russia has instructed Ukrainian forces holed up in a chemical facility in besieged Sievierodonetsk to lay down their arms by early Wednesday.

After Russia committed the majority of its firepower to the eastern Donbas region, Ukraine is pushing for an increase in Western heavy weaponry, a matter that is due to be discussed at length at a NATO military ministers conference on Wednesday in Brussels.

More than 500 civilians are said to be trapped inside Azot, a chemical plant where Ukrainian forces have defied Russian airstrikes and assaults that have left much of Sievierodonetsk in ruins.

From 8 a.m. Moscow time (0500 GMT), fighters should “end their pointless resistance and lay down guns,” according to Mikhail Mizintsev, head of Russia’s National Defense Management Centre.

Civilians will be allowed to leave through a humanitarian corridor, according to Mizintsev.

Earlier clashes over the Azovstal steelworks in the southern port of Mariupol, where hundreds of fighters and residents sought refuge from Russian fire, echo the Azot bombardment. In mid-May, those on the inside surrendered and were taken into Russian custody.

“People can no longer tolerate being in the shelters, their psychological state is on edge,” said Serhiy Gaidai, regional governor of Luhansk, one of two eastern provinces Moscow claims on behalf of separatist proxies.

As the conflict has devolved into a war of attrition, the battle for Luhansk’s Sievierodonetsk – a city of scarcely more than 100,000 people before the war – has become the most important battle in Ukraine.

After Russian forces destroyed the city’s sole bridge, Ukraine is still attempting to evacuate residents. Over the last three weeks, the ground has changed hands multiple times, and Ukrainian officials have shown little sign of backing down.

“We have to hold strong … The more losses the enemy suffers, (the) less strength it will have to pursue its aggression,” Zelenskiy said in an address late Tuesday.

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