Fierce fighting for the strategic Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk rages as Russian artillery levels infrastructure and massacres civilians. The city has become the keystone of a Russian strategy to control the eastern region of Donbass in Ukraine.
Mixed reports and a scarcity of independent observers cloud the current situation in Sievierodonetsk. On June 6, President Zelensky said: “Our heroes are not abandoning their positions in Severodonetsk. In the city, heavy street fighting continues. The same night, the daily announcement of the Ukrainian army revealed that two civilians had been killed by Russian artillery in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, a statement not verified by independent sources. President Zelensky described control of Donbass as “decided” by the Battle of Sievierodonetsk, located on the bank of the Donets River and an economic, political and strategic target for Russian interests.
While Russian artillery has a significant advantage over Ukrainian firepower, Major Petro Kusyk, commander of the Ukrainian National Guard Battalion in Svoboda, said the Ukrainians were drawing Russian forces into bloody street battles to neutralize their artillery advantage.
Reuters claims that the Ukrainians suffer from significant disadvantages in terms of armaments. Ukrainian officials have called for increased foreign arms shipments to support the war effort. Vadym Skibitsky, deputy head of Ukrainian military intelligence, claimed in an interview with the Guardian that “[e]Everything now depends on what (the West) gives us. Ukraine has one artillery piece against 10-15 Russian artillery pieces.
On June 11, the situation escalated when Russian artillery shelled the Azot chemical plant believed to be housing hundreds of Ukrainian civilians in Sievierodonetsk. The bombardment caused an oil leak which ignited into an unconfirmed fire. Although Ukraine says 200 employees and 600 residents of Severodonetsk are seeking refuge under the plant, Russian-backed separatist forces say the plant is also home to 300-400 Ukrainian soldiers.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine, after initial incursions, has largely stalled. However, bloody fighting continues to engulf eastern Ukraine as Russian troops attempt to secure the eastern region of Donbass. Ukraine’s defense has been aided by foreign allies who are now essential to their war effort. A report by the American Institute for the Study of War found that Ukrainian forces are rapidly depleting their stockpiles of Soviet-era weapons and ammunition, creating a strict dependency on Western military aid constantly expanding. Specifically, Ukrainian appeals are aimed at their biggest donor, the United States.
As of May 20, the United States has released a total of $54 billion in total aid since the Russian invasion, of which $12.5 has been spent on weapons and other military supplies. Over the past decade, the $31.4 billion in non-military aid given to Ukraine dwarfs US aid programs. Moreover, the total aid given by the United States is three times greater than the amount given by the whole of the European Union, according to the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, but ranks fourth in terms of of aid as a percentage of GDP.