Russian serviceman patrols near the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine, on June 13, 2022. Image Credit: AFP

LVIV, Ukraine: Russian troops control about 80 per cent of the fiercely contested eastern Ukrainian city of Sieverodonetsk and have destroyed all three bridges leading out of the city but Ukrainian authorities are still trying to evacuate more wounded residents, a regional official said on Tuesday.

Serhiy Haidai, governor of the eastern Luhansk region, acknowledged that a mass evacuation of civilians from Sieverodonetsk now is “simply not possible’’ due to the relentless shelling and fighting in the city. Ukrainian forces have been pushed to the industrial outskirts of the city because of “the scorched earth method and heavy artillery the Russians are using,” he said.

“There is still an opportunity for the evacuation of the wounded, communication with the Ukrainian military and local residents,’’ he told The Associated Press by telephone, adding that Russian forces have not yet blocked off the strategic city.

About 12,000 people remain in Sievierodonetsk compared to its pre-war population of 100,000. More than 500 civilians are sheltering in the Azot chemical plant, which is being relentlessly pounded by the Russians, according to Haidai.

In all, 70 civilians were evacuated from the Luhansk region in the last day, the governor said.

A Russian general, meanwhile, says a humanitarian corridor will be opened on Wednesday to evacuate civilians from the besieged Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk. Col-Gen. Mkhail Mizintsev said evacuees would be taken to the town of Svatovo, 60 kilometers (35 miles) to the north in territory under the control of Russian and separatist forces.

25% of Ukraine’s arable land lost to war: Kyiv

Meanwhile, the deputy agriculture minister said Ukraine has lost a quarter of its arable land since Russian attacks started, notably in the south and east, while insisting that food security is not threatened.

“Despite the loss of 25 per cent of arable land, crop planting this year is more than sufficient” to ensure food for the population, Taras Vysotskiy told a news conference.

He said national consumption levels had fallen “due to mass displacement and external migration” as millions fled to escape the fighting.

Despite the significant loss of land to the Russians, “the current situation of crop planting areas.. does not pose a threat to Ukraine’s food security,” he said.

“Ukrainian farmers managed to prepare relatively well for sowing before the war started,” he said.