Speed Reads

Desperate times

Russia destroys the last bridge to Sievierdonetsk, cutting off Ukrainian defenders and Russian advance

Russian forces and artillery have pushed Ukrainian defenders out of the center of Sievierodonetsk, one of Ukraine's last strongholds in eastern Luhansk province, and damaged the third and final bridge connecting Sievierodonetsk to its twin city Lysychansk and supply lines to the west, Ukrainian officials said late Monday. "It is currently impossible to use the bridges," said Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai.

Russia destroyed the second of the three bridges over the weekend, and with all three now unusable it will be "difficult, but not impossible," to resupply Ukraine's embattled defenders with food, weapons, ammunition, and reserve troops, Haidai said.

"The ways to connect with the city are quite difficult, but they exist," Oleksandr Struik, head of Sievierodonetsk military administration, said on Ukrainian television. About 500 civilians are holed up with Ukrainian defenders at the city's Azot chemical plant, he said, and evacuations are taking place "every minute when there is quiet there, or there is a possibility of transportation."

Severing all three bridges between Sievierdonetsk and Ukrainian-held territory will trap the remaining Ukrainian soldiers, but Russia pays a cost, too. "Russian forces should, in principle, be seeking to seize the bridges rather than destroy them, since Russian troops have struggled to cross the Siverskyi Donetsk River," U.S. think tank the Institute for the Study of War noted Sunday. "It seems unlikely that the benefit of catching a relatively small number of defenders would be worth the cost of imposing a contested river crossing on Russian troops." 

The battle for Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, which includes Luhansk, "will surely go down in military history as one of the most brutal battles in Europe and for Europe," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nighty address Monday. "And we draw the attention of our partners on a daily basis to the fact that only a sufficient number of modern artillery for Ukraine will ensure our advantage and finally the end of Russian torture of the Ukrainian Donbas."

Ukraine "requires support from the U.S. and NATO," retired U.S. Gen. Mark Hertling tweeted Monday, But its request for 1,000 howitzers, 300 multiple-launch rocket systems, and other artillery isn't feasible for the U.S. or Ukraine. "The courage and tenacity Ukraine has shown is exemplary and they are fighting for all of us," he added. With appropriate support, "Ukraine will win, but it will be a tough fight."