*First attempt at safe route out of Severodonetsk
Ukraine’s army says its fighters have successfully defended attempts by Russian troops to storm their positions in the eastern cities of Severodonetsk and Toshivka.
The Russian army used mortars, artillery and Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS) to shell several population centres in the Severodonetsk area, including Severodonetsk, Lysychansk, Toshkivka, Ustynivka, Borivske and Metyolkine, reports the BBC.
“Ukrainian warriors successfully repel the enemy’s attempts to storm their positions in Severodonetsk and Toshkivka, fighting continues,” the Ukrainian army’s General Staff said in its latest update.
It comes as the first humanitarian corridor is being attempted in Severodonetsk today after Russia said it would allow civilians to leave, adding that it will give Ukrainian troops holed up in the Azot chemical plant a chance to surrender.
The BBC has not been able to independently verify these claims.
And Russia is in control of most of Severodonetsk following a month of intense fighting which has created “extensive collateral damage” in the key eastern city, according to the UK’s Ministry of Defence.
In its latest morning briefing, it also noted it was “highly unlikely Russia anticipated such robust opposition” or “slow, attritional conflict”.
The update also touches on the plight of “several hundred civilians” who are sheltering in a chemical plants underground bunkers, along with Ukrainian soldiers.
Russia has said it will allow safe passage to the civilians today, and asked the soldiers to lay down their weapons and surrender.
The MoD briefing suggests that if the fighters stay and continue to hold out in the Azot chemical plant, it will “temporarily prevent Russia from re-tasking these units for missions elsewhere”.
Meanwhile, for the first time, a humanitarian corridor is being opened in Severodonetsk, the Ukrainian city which is now bearing the brunt of the fighting.
The Russian army has said it will last for 12 hours from 08:00 Moscow time (05:00 GMT), with people taken north to the occupied territories.
The city has been effectively cut off from the rest of Ukraine since Russian troops blew up a number of key bridges.
Yet despite the loss of the bridges, Ukrainian forces say they are also still trying to evacuate civilians.
There are believed to be about 12,000 people remaining in the city, which is in the eastern Luhansk region. Before the war, it was home to 100,000.
Previous humanitarian corridors, attempted in places like the port city of Mariupol in the south, have struggled to stay open.