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Ukrainian Armed Forces “hang on” in key battles in Donbass

#Ukrainian #Armed #Forces #hang #key #battles #Donbass

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces were “holding on” in the flashpoint of the eastern city of Severodonetsk, where fierce street fighting with Russian troops could determine the fate of the Donbass region.

Moscow has focused its firepower on the industrial city it now largely controls, with the region’s governor saying on Friday that Russian forces had destroyed a major sports arena.

Pro-Russian rebels on Thursday sentenced a Moroccan and two British militants to death after they were captured fighting for Ukraine and accused of acting as mercenaries for Kyiv.

Zelenskyy said in his evening address on Thursday that several “cities in the Donbass, which the occupiers now see as main targets, are being held tight”.

He added that Ukrainian forces in Zaporizhia and Kharkiv regions outside Donbass have made positive progress and are in the process of “liberating our country”.

While the fiercest fighting is now concentrated in Severodonetsk, Governor Sergiy Gaiday – who had previously called in western artillery to quickly secure a Ukrainian victory – said “one of the symbols of Severodonetsk has been destroyed. The Ice Palace burned down.”

People in the city of Lysychansk, near Severodonetsk, spoke to AFP about the tough choices the war has forced on them: either stay and brave the shelling, or flee and leave their homes.

Yevhen Zhyryada, 39, said the only way to get water is to go to a water distribution point in the city.

“We have to go there under fire and under fire,” he said. “This is how we survive.”

But others have chosen to pack their bags and get as far away from the fights as possible.

“Life forced me to leave. The constant shelling. And so did my grandson. My grandson begged me: ‘Grandma, come to us.’ Only I don’t know where to go, I left her address at home,” said Lyubov Akateeva, 65.

Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said about 100 Ukrainian soldiers are killed and up to 500 injured in front-line fighting every day.

– death sentence –

Western countries have provided arms and aid to Ukraine since the February 24 invasion, while some people from abroad have joined the fight against Russian forces.

Separatist authorities in the Donetsk region of Donbass ordered the death penalty for Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner and Saadun Brahim, Russian media reported.

British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss called the verdict “a sham verdict devoid of any legitimacy,” while a spokesman for Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the verdict violated the rights of prisoners under the Geneva Convention.

The British surrendered Aslin and Pinner in April and Brahim in March in the eastern town of Volnovakha.

In a three-day trial, the men pleaded guilty to “committed seizing power and subverting the constitutional order of the Donetsk People’s Republic,” Russian news agency Interfax said.

A lawyer representing one of them told TASS news agency they would appeal.

– ‘Foreign Mercenaries’ –

Since 2014, pro-Russian separatists have held part of the Donbass region, and it is now the focus of Moscow’s offensive after its forces were repulsed from Kyiv weeks after the invasion began.

Russia has repeatedly warned the West not to get involved and said it has targeted a Ukrainian training center for “foreign mercenaries” in the Zhytomyr region west of Kyiv.

Four people were killed in a Russian airstrike on Toshkivka, a village about 25 kilometers south of Severodonetsk, the Ukrainian presidency said.

Seven more deaths were reported in fighting across the country.

In Kyiv, Ukraine’s Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky said the capital was not in immediate danger, but that troops still maintained a line of defence.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, meanwhile, appeared to be comparing his actions to Peter the Great’s conquest of the Baltic Sea coast during his war against Sweden in the 18th century.

– grain crisis –

Zelenskyy on Thursday called for Russia’s expulsion from the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), accusing Moscow of “causing hunger” and fueling the global grain crisis by invading his country.

Ukraine’s Black Sea ports export millions of tons of grain each year but have been blocked since the invasion, while Western sanctions against Russia have prevented Moscow from selling much of its grain abroad, driving up food prices.

The FAO warned that poor countries will suffer most from the crisis as they “pay more but receive less food”.

The African Union on Thursday urged Kyiv to demine waters around the Ukrainian-controlled port of Odessa to facilitate exports, warning of a “serious famine” and destabilization on the continent.

Moscow has also asked Ukraine to clear mines, but Kyiv has refused, fearing a Russian attack.

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#Ukrainian #Armed #Forces #hang #key #battles #Donbass

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