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“Unfortunately, the front line is dividing the city in half, but the city is still defending itself; the city is still Ukrainian,” Aleksandr Stryuk, head of the civil-military administration in Severodonetsk, told a Ukrainian television channel. He called on residents to remain in hiding as the city comes under heavy air and artillery attacks, and he said there were enough reserves of humanitarian supplies to last “a few days.”

Stryuk said the casualty toll is not yet clear and that mobile connections in the city are unstable. “Evacuation is halted for now. Unfortunately, it is not possible because of the fighting,” he added.

Radio Svoboda quoted another official in the wider Severodonetsk district, Roman Vlasenko, as saying said that Russian forces had advanced into about half the city. Fighting was raging in the center, he said.

Russian troops have been fighting to make gains in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, which includes the Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, where separatist forces that have long controlled breakaway enclaves are fighting alongside Moscow’s troops to expand their grip.