Russian forces in eastern Ukraine are intensifying attacks on a key city as they seek to seize the Donbas region.
Severodonetsk, the largest city under Ukrainian control in Luhansk province, has come under intense artillery and missile fire from Moscow’s forces.
On Sunday, local officials said Russian troops were repelled after trying to enter the city from four directions.
It comes as the UN said the global number of displaced people has risen above 100 million for the first time.
Officials said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has contributed to the grim milestone. More than 14 million people are thought to have fled their homes since the war began on 24 February.
The UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, said the announcement should serve as a wake up call for world leaders.
“The international response to people fleeing war in Ukraine has been overwhelmingly positive,” Grandi said. “But ultimately humanitarian aid is a palliative, not a cure.”
“To reverse this trend the only answer is peace and stability so that innocent people are not forced to gamble between acute danger at home or precarious flight or exile.”
Meanwhile, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai accused Moscow of adopting a “scorched-earth approach” in its efforts to capture the city of Severodonetsk.
“Every day they are trying to break the line of defense,” Gaidai said. “They are simply systematically destroying the city. Everywhere is being shelled constantly.”
The city of 100,000 people sits on a strategic position on the Donets River, with UK defense officials saying it has likely become one of Russia’s “immediate tactical priorities”.
Gaidai warned that Russian forces have destroyed all but one bridge across the Donets river and said that the city is at risk of being cut off.
He also accused Russian tanks of firing on residential buildings during fighting in the city and of seeking to erase Severodonetsk “from the face of the earth”.
Ukraine’s human right’s ombudsman, Lyudmyla Denisova, said the city risks suffering the same fate as Mariupol; being surrounded and pounded into submission.
“The enemy threw all his forces to storm Severodonetsk, on the outskirts of which there are constant battles,” Denisova wrote.
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCiES