Ukraine admits heavy losses as Russia demands surrender

Ukrainian servicemen ride BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region,

Ukrainian servicemen ride BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Donetsk region,

Ukrainian forces are suffering painful losses in fighting Russian troops in both the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk and the Kharkiv region, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Tuesday.

Zelenskiy spoke as Russia demanded that Ukrainian forces holed up in a chemical plant in embattled Sievierodonetsk should lay down their arms by early Wednesday.

Fighters should “stop their senseless resistance and lay down arms” from 8 a.m. Moscow time (0500 GMT), ​Mikhail Mizintsev, head of Russia’s National Defence Management Centre told the Interfax news agency.

Civilians would be let out through a humanitarian corridor, Mizintsev said.

Ukraine said more than 500 civilians are trapped alongside soldiers inside Azot, a chemical factory where its forces have resisted weeks of Russian bombardment and assaults that have reduced much of Sievierodonetsk to ruins.

Ukraine is calling for an increase in Western heavy weapons after Russia committed the bulk of its firepower to the eastern Donbas region, a topic expected to feature prominently at a meeting of NATO defence ministers on Wednesday in Brussels.

The Azot bombardment echoes earlier battles over the Azovstal steelworks in the southern port of Mariupol, where hundreds of fighters and civilians took shelter from Russian shelling.

Those inside surrendered in mid-May and were taken into Russian custody.

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In a late night address, Zelenskiy said Ukraine needed modern anti-missile weapons now, adding there could be no justification for partner countries to delay delivery.

Some Russian rockets are evading defences and causing casualties, he said.

Ukraine said its forces were still trying to evacuate civilians from Sievierodonetsk after Russia destroyed the last bridge to the city, the latest stage in a weeks-long battle in the Donbas region that Moscow seeks to capture.

“The fiercest battles, as before, are in Sievierodonetsk and other nearby towns and communities. The losses, unfortunately, are painful,” said Zelenskiy.

“But we have to hold strong – holding strong is so critically important in Donbas. The more losses the enemy suffers there the less strength it will have to pursue its aggression,” he said.

Ukraine is also seeing “painful losses” in the Kharkiv region to the east of Kyiv, where Russia is trying to strengthen its position after being pushed back recently, Zelenskiy said.

He added: “Battles are continuing there and we have to keep fighting, fighting hard.”

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