Fierce fighting continues in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine with constant shelling reported in several areas and the battle for the key city of Severodonetsk intensifying. It comes as Russia's foreign minister said pushing the Ukrainian army out of Donetsk and Luhansk is a priority for Moscow.
Here's what we know about the situation in the Donbas region:
- "Maximum intensity" strikes: Ukraine's Defense Ministry says that Russian forces are carrying out artillery strikes along much of the frontline that runs through the Luhansk and Donetsk regions as they try to break through Ukrainian defensive positions.
- The Donbas region encompasses the eastern areas of Donetsk and Luhansk. Ukrainian lines are being attacked by the Russians from the south, east and north.
- "The battles have reached maximum intensity. The Russian occupation forces engage along the entire frontline and try to shell our rear positions with artillery," said Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzianyk on Monday.
- Russian forces, he said, "are trying encircle our troops in Donetsk and Luhansk regions."
- The General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine reported Monday additional Russian efforts to degrade Ukrainian defenses in Luhansk and Donetsk, saying that artillery, airstrikes and missiles have been used in several places — including Lysychansk and Soledar.
- "Most difficult" situation in Severodonetsk: The eastern Ukrainian city and neighboring Lysychansk are being hammered with constant shelling as Russian forces try to encircle Ukrainian defenders.
- Russian forces are trying to break through Ukrainian lines in this area and complete the seizure of Luhansk. They control about 90% of the region, according to most estimates.
- Serhiy Hayday, the head of the Luhansk Regional Administration, said late Monday that while all parts of Luhansk region still under Ukrainian control are being attacked, "the situation in Severodonetsk is really the most difficult."
- He said Russian forces had been able to "push through territory from the outskirts of the city, where the Myr hotel is, and move a little deeper into the city. In the city now, there are and will be street battles."
- Earlier, Hayday said Russian forces are “advancing into the middle of the city” after consolidating "their hold on the northeastern and southeastern outskirts" of Severodonetsk.
- Ukraine's Defense Ministry spokesperson Motuzianyk said street fights have broken out but the Ukrainians "are trying to prevent the enemy from encircling our units near Lysychansk and Severodonetsk and blocking the main logistics path."
- About two-thirds of properties in Severodonetsk have been reported as destroyed.
- On Monday, French journalist Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff was shot and killed in the area.
- In neighboring Lysychansk, one resident told CNN, "we haven't slept in three months" as Russian strikes have increased in ferocity. Residents must decide between staying in their homes or fleeing for their lives.
- Shelling "does not stop" in Donetsk: Three civilians were killed and several others wounded in fierce fighting in the Donetsk region on Sunday.
- Russian forces shelled areas north of the city of Donetsk with small arms, tanks, artillery, mortars, and MLRS "Grad" rockets, according to the regional military administration for Donetsk.
- On Monday morning, there was also shelling in areas to the southwest of Donetsk city.
- "The situation is tense. The shelling along the front line does not stop," said the head of the Donetsk regional military administration, Pavlo Kyrylenko. "The hottest spots are (in the direction of) Avdiivka, Toretsk, and Lyman."
- Kyrylenko said the key route from Bakhmut to Lysychansk is still under Ukrainian control, but the Russians are "constantly shelling the route." It is the main route for providing humanitarian goods and is important for evacuations, he added.
- The General Staff said Russian efforts to degrade Ukrainian defenses continues, with artillery, mortar and multiple rocket systems being used against several towns and villages in the direction of Bakhmut.