Ukraine now controls around half the city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine after reclaiming some ground from the Russians, Serhiy Hayday, head of the Luhansk region military administration said.
Hayday was responding to a question about an intelligence assessment from the UK defense ministry, which predicted Russia would control all of the Luhansk region within two weeks.
Two weeks is unrealistic. It's just unreal,” Hayday said Friday. “Earlier there was a difficult situation, and somewhere around 70% [of Severodonetsk] was captured, now we have already moved them back somewhere around 20%.”
The Russians “had previously managed to capture most of the city, but now our military has pushed them back. They are really suffering huge losses,” he said in further comments on Saturday.
“The difficult situation remains in the region as a whole, and Severodonetsk is now just a concentration of hostilities because the Russian army -- as we understand -- is throwing all its reserves into this direction,” Hayday said.
Currently the Ukrainian military lacks long-range artillery, which could be a game changer for the battle in the east, Hayday said.
“They are moving forward step-by-step. They are simply destroying everything with artillery, aircraft, mortars, tanks,” Hayday said. “But as soon as we have enough Western long-range weapons, we will push their artillery away from our positions. And then, believe me, the Russian infantry will just run.”
Street fights continue in Severodonetsk, and Ukrainian troops are still “trying to push back the enemy,” he said.
On Friday, the Russians “tried to surround the Ukrainian troops” in the city and neighboring Lysychansk, but were unsuccessful. In total, Ukraine repelled a total of nine attacks by the Russians in the Donbas region in the past 24 hours.
Russia is also blowing up bridges to prevent Ukraine sending in reinforcements to the region, Hayday said.
“They are really afraid that the success of our defenders will develop, and this can be done if the ammunition, weapons and reinforcements are provided in time. This is the first thing they are afraid of,” Hayday said. “Luhansk region is a huge outpost for us, we are holding it now.”
Around 30 km (18.6 m) south of Severodonetsk, three people were killed on Friday, including a mother and child, in Hirske, Hayday said.
The humanitarian situation in Severodonetsk is “very difficult,” Hayday said, as they are currently unable to safely evacuate people or bring in humanitarian aid to the city.