All bridges to the embattled Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk have now been destroyed, the local governor says.
With the city effectively cut off, Serhiy Haidai says delivering supplies and evacuating civilians are now impossible.
Fierce fighting is taking place in the eastern city where Ukrainian officials said Russian artillery had driven its forces out of the centre.
For weeks capturing Severodonetsk has been a top military goal for Russia.
Taking Severodonetsk and the nearby city of Lysychansk would give Moscow control of the entire Luhansk region, much of which is already controlled by Russian-backed separatists.
All three bridges into Severodonetsk were destroyed, Haidai posted on Telegram. Those residents remaining in the city were being forced to survive in “extremely difficult conditions”, he added.
Former British soldier Jordan Gatley is among those to have been killed while fighting to defend the city, his family confirmed on Sunday.
Ukraine’s President Volodomyr Zelensky described the human cost of the battle for the city as “terrifying”. Ukrainian troops, he said, had been fighting Russian forces for “literally every metre”.
Reports suggest that about 70 per cent of the city is now under Russian control.
Ukrainian troops remaining in the city must “surrender or die”, a military representative of the pro-Russian self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said.
Speaking to media in Donetsk, Eduard Basurin said, “Ukrainian divisions that are there [in Severodonetsk] are there forever”.
A top Russian official said Moscow’s objective was to protect the self-declared people’s republics of Donetsk and Luhansk.
“In general, the protection of the republics is the main goal of the special military operation,” Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti news agency.
When President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion on February 24 he said Russia’s goal was to “demilitarise and de-Nazify Ukraine”. Later another objective was added: ensuring Ukraine’s neutral status. (BBC)