Ukraine claims Russian forces pushed back in east in fierce fighting

Kyiv (AFP/APP): Russian artillery slammed Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region with fierce fighting over the city of Severodonetsk, but the local governor said there was some progress in pushing back invading forces.
More than 100 days since President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine, thousands of people have been killed, millions sent fleeing and towns turned into rubble. The advance of Russian forces has been slowed by stiff Ukrainian resistance, repelling them from around the capital Kyiv and forcing Moscow to focus on capturing the east, including the Donbas.
Some of the fiercest fighting has been centred on Severodonetsk, where Ukrainian troops are resisting a complete takeover.
“They (Russians) didn’t seize it fully,” Lugansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said Friday, saying the invading forces had been pushed back “20 percent”. “As soon as we get a big amount of Western long-range weapons, we will push their artillery back… and then Russian infantry will run.”
Ukrainian troops were still holding an industrial zone in Severodonetsk, Gaiday had said, a scenario reminiscent of Mariupol, where a steelworks was the port city’s last holdout.
The situation in Lysychansk, Severodonetsk’s twin city, which sits just across a river — looked increasingly dire. About 60 percent of infrastructure and housing had been destroyed, while internet, mobile networks and gas services had been knocked out, said its mayor Oleksandr Zaika.
In the city of Sloviansk, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Severodonetsk, the mayor has urged residents to evacuate in the face of intense bombardment, with water and electricity cut off.
“The situation is getting worse,” student Gulnara Evgaripova told AFP as she boarded a minibus to leave the city.
Ekaterina Perednenko, a paramedic, said: “I am scared that there will be nothing to come back to.”
14 mln Ukrainians flee homes amid conflicts: The United Nations (UN) estimated that nearly 14 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict, the government-run Ukrinform news agency reported on Saturday.
According to a statement by Amin Awad, assistant secretary-general and United Nations crisis coordinator for Ukraine, most of those displaced are women and children.
The conflict has left 15.7 million Ukrainians in need of humanitarian support, with some of them lacking access to water and electricity, the statement said.
Since the beginning of the conflict on Feb. 24, the UN has provided immediate humanitarian aid to some eight million people across Ukraine, including in besieged cities in the east of the country, the UN official said. The UN warned that the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine may further exacerbate in winter.