Fighting raged in two key eastern Ukrainian cities on the 100th day of Russia’s war, with both Moscow and Kyiv claiming progress on the battlefront.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that Russian troops had succeeded in their main stated task of “protecting civilians” in the separatist-controlled areas in eastern Ukraine.
He added that Russian forces had “liberated” parts of Ukraine and that “this work will continue until all the goals of the special military operation are achieved.”
Russian forces have been trying to encircle the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk in Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk province.
The Ukrainian head of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Gaidai, told national television Friday that Ukraine had recaptured a large piece of territory in Sievierodonetsk. He said Ukrainian troops had retaken about 20% of the ground they previously lost to the Russians.
Gaidai said that Russian troops were making advances only with heavy artillery, and that once Ukraine had enough Western long-range weapons, it would be able to force the Russians to retreat.
The United States and Britain pledged this week to send Ukraine advanced missile systems. Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said Friday that soldiers had already begun training in Europe to operate the weapons.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address Friday: “We have defended Ukraine for 100 days already,” adding, “Victory will be ours.”
The U.N. crisis coordinator for Ukraine issued a statement Friday to mark the 100th day of the war.
“This war has taken an unacceptable toll on people and engulfed virtually all aspects of civilian life,” Assistant Secretary-General Amin Awad said. “This war has and will have no winner. Rather, we have witnessed for 100 days what is lost: lives, homes, jobs and prospects. We have witnessed destruction and devastation across cities, towns and villages. Schools, hospitals and shelters have not been spared.”
Awad added, “The war must end now.”
On Thursday, Zelenskyy said Russian forces occupied about 20% of Ukrainian territory. He said there had been “some progress” in the battle for Sievierodonetsk but did not give specifics.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia had taken control of most of the city. It said Ukrainian forces controlled the main road into Sievierodonetsk, with Russia making “steady local gains, enabled by a heavy concentration of artillery.”
The ministry also said Russia controlled more than 90% of the Luhansk region.
In neighboring Donetsk province, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told Reuters that Russian troops were just 15 kilometers outside the city of Sloviansk.
Earlier this week, U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States was providing Ukraine with a $700 million package of “more advanced rocket systems and munitions” to help fight off Russia’s invasion, now in its fourth month. White House officials said Ukraine had vowed not to fire those rockets into Russian territory.
“This new package will arm them with new capabilities and advanced weaponry, including HIMARS with battlefield munitions, to defend their territory from Russian advances,” Biden said in a statement, using the acronym for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System. “We will continue to lead the world in providing historic assistance to support Ukraine’s fight for freedom.”
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.