LVIV, Ukraine — Russian forces have encircled and are laying siege to the ancient city of Chernihiv in northern Ukraine, the mayor said, adding that critical infrastructure for its 300,000 residents was rapidly failing as it came under repeated bombardment.
“We are surrounded,” the mayor, Vladyslav Atroshenko, said. While Ukrainian forces are battling to keep some roads in and out open, the mayor said, Russian forces are trying to tighten a cordon around the city.
The entire city is without gas for cooking and heating, he said, after Russian shelling destroyed the pipes. Some neighborhoods have no clean water, he said, and the city has been disconnected from the national power grid, forcing residents to use their remaining gas supplies to keep the lights on. That gas supply is expected to run out in 24 hours, the mayor said.
Russian forces have already besieged the southern city of Mariupol for more than a week, where the situation has grown increasingly dire. People there are being buried in communal graves.
The mayor of Chernihiv, in a message posted online on Wednesday, said his city has run out of room to bury its dead.
“This is the first time in my life when I have to excavate the graves to bury five coffins together,” the mayor said. He has posted urgent pleas for help on the local government website over the past couple of days.
“Dozens of people have died,” he said in a message. “Dozens of multistory buildings have been ruined. Thousands of people have no place to live.”
The city, which lies directly along the Russian invasion route from Belarus to Kyiv, has come under attack since the first days of the war and the bombardment has intensified, according to local officials, eyewitness accounts and video evidence.
The Chernihiv Regional Military Administration issued a report on Thursday documenting an attack on Wednesday night, in which it accused Russian forces of opening fire in a residential community on the outskirts of the city. At least 10 houses were burned.
“During the last few days Chernihiv is being under violent severe bombings of Russian fighting aircrafts,” the mayor said. “Up to 17 bombings per day.”
Still, he said the city had no plans to surrender. “Everyone is looking at us,” he said. “We have to be strong.”