Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday that Russian forces currently occupy roughly one-fifth of Ukraine.
“As of today, about 20% of our territory is under the control of the occupiers,” Zelensky said Thursday in an address to lawmakers in Luxembourg.
Zelensky added that Russian forces occupy some 48,000 square miles of Ukrainian territory — an area larger than the total land mass of New York State.
“The Russian army has already destroyed almost the entire Donbas,” he said of the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine.
“This, once one of the most powerful industrial centers in Europe, is simply devastated. The occupiers are destroying it city by city.”
Ukrainian forces began a retreat Wednesday from Severodonetsk, the last Ukrainian holdout in the Luhansk oblast, one of two states that make up the Donbas region.
The city has been pummeled by Russian artillery, and local authorities estimate over 90% of the city’s structures have sustained heavy damage.
Ninety miles from the Russian border and once home to more than 100,000 people, Severodonetsk has been largely evacuated, but its Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said the fighting endangers the estimated 13,000 workers still trapped in the city.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said that Ukrainian counter attacks were continuing to occur throughout the city, however, according to the BBC.
Haidai said there was intense street fighting in parts of the city, hampering efforts to evacuate. He said a number of civilians had begun to take shelter at the Azot chemical plant near the center of the city.
Zelensky said Thursday that Ukrainian forces were fighting along a 600-mile front that curved from the shipbuilding city of Mykolaiv in the south to Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, in the northeast.
The Russian push for control for the Donbas has turned into a race against the clock for the Kremlin, hoping to put critical pressure on Kyiv before western weapons shipments arrive.
On Wednesday, the White House said it would provide advanced rocket launchers to Ukraine, while Germany has announced it will be sending air defense and radar systems.
The UK has also said it will supply Ukraine with precision rocket launchers, and aid in training Ukrainian troops in their use.
It’s expected to take about three weeks before the American weaponry can reach soldiers on the front who have been trained in their use.
Meanwhile, the fighting continues, often town-by-town and street-by-street.
“We have to defend ourselves against the entire Russian army,” Zelensky said.
Russia’s territorial gains have come at a steep price, the Ukrainian leader said, estimating that Moscow has lost some 30,000 troops in battle.
That figure has not been independently verified, and Moscow has not released any casualty numbers for more than two months. If Ukrainian estimates are true, the Russian death toll would be twice as high as that of the Soviet Union’s decade-long war in Afghanistan, in which an estimated 15,000 soldiers were killed.
With Post wires