Ukraine said Tuesday that Russia’s military campaign has "entered its most active phase," according to the words of Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk.
"Three months after invading Ukraine, Russian forces are trying to encircle Ukrainian troops in twin cities straddling the Siverskyi Donets River in eastern Ukraine," he described. Further as Reuters reports, "Motuzyanyk said Russian forces had not given up attempts to cross the river." The area referenced is in and around the vicinity of the city of Sievierodonetsk and represents the last major Ukrainian stronghold in the eastern Lugansk province. Alongside Lysychansk on the opposite bank, this section of the river is where the most pivotal battle is now taking place.
Russian forces are reportedly advancing from three directions in an attempt to completely encircle Ukrainian positions there. Shelling on the area has greatly increased according to accounts from all sides.
Local Ukrainian officials have also acknowledged that the fighting has intensified to its worst point since the start of the conflict, and that civilians are now being told to evacuate immediately, as The Moscow Times details:
The governor of Lugansk said Russia had sent thousands of troops to capture his entire region and that Severodonetsk was under massive attack.
He warned an estimated 15,000 civilians still in the city that it was too late to leave.
"At this point I will not say: get out, evacuate," Sergiy Gaidai said on Telegram.
"Now I will say: stay in a shelter, because such a density of shelling will not allow us to calmly gather people and come for them."
West of this in one of the largest Donbas cities, called Slovyansk, Ukrainian forces are still firmly in control, with the streets still relatively 'normal' in terms of civilian activity, despite air raid sirens routinely blaring.
Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Luhansk province, said of the Russian assaults on Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, "The enemy has focused its efforts on carrying out an offensive in order to encircle Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk."
"The intensity of fire on Sievierodonetsk has increased by multiple times, they are simply destroying the city," he said in televised statements. He estimated that some 15,000 civilians are under threat given how rapid the fighting is approaching.
May 23, 2022. Russian operations to encircle Severodonetsk made gains in the past 24 hours, driving north through Zolote. Fighting is ongoing in Lyman (west of Severodonetsk) as Russian forces attempt to cut off Ukrainian supply lines.— George Barros (@georgewbarros) May 24, 2022
A thread on map updates for @TheStudyofWar. https://t.co/I40tTkjgHN
Should the twin cities fall, expelling the final Ukrainian troops still fighting, this would effectively mark a complete Russian takeover of Luhansk province.