Zelensky visits the east and the Russians advance in Donbass

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited the east of the country for the first time since the Russian invasion on Sunday, as Russian forces tightened their grip on major cities in the Donbass region.

In photos posted online by the Ukrainian Presidency, we can see President Zelensky, dressed in a flak jacket and surrounded by armed soldiers, visiting the ruins of destroyed buildings in Kharkiv (northeast), the second largest city in the country, and its surrounding areas.

Two thousand two hundred and twenty-nine houses were destroyed in Kharkiv and the region. We will restore, rebuild and bring back life. In Kharkiv and all other towns and villages where evil has brought, he said in Telegram.

In this war the occupiers are trying to achieve any result. But they must have understood for a long time that we will defend our land to the end. “They don’t have a chance,” Mr. Zelensky said.

Meanwhile, the Russian troops, having withdrawn from the Kharkiv region and redeployed southward, advanced towards the main cities of Severodonetsk, and relentlessly bombarded, Lyschansk, its twin, in the Donbass.

Girl killed by shell

On Sunday, Telegram Serguiï Gaïdaï, governor of the Lugansk region, which makes up the Donbass region, confirmed that the situation in Lysytchansk had “significantly worsened”.

“A Russian shell fell on an apartment building, and a girl died instantly, and four people were taken to hospital,” he added.

In Severodonetsk, “the enemy carried out offensive operations,” according to a report of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Army. According to Governor Gaïdaï, the attack continues in the city with street fighting.

More than three months after the start of the war launched by Moscow on February 24, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz asked Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, during an 80-minute phone interview, to start “serious direct negotiations” with his Ukrainian counterpart.

Putin assured his side that Russia remains “open to resuming dialogue” with Kyiv to settle the conflict.

*Continuous bombing

“Next week will be very difficult,” Governor Gaidi admitted on Saturday, assuring that Russian forces “will not be able to achieve everything they plan in the near future.”

The mayor of Severodonetsk, Oleksandr Stryuk, warned of the deteriorating health situation in this city of 100,000 inhabitants before the war. He wrote on his Telegram account on Saturday evening that the “continuous bombing” significantly complicates the supply – especially drinking water – to the city, which has been without electricity for more than two weeks.

Target hits

The Russian Defense Ministry said, in a statement issued on Sunday morning, that the Russian army destroyed “with long-range, high-precision missiles an important arsenal of the Ukrainian Armed Forces”, in the (southeast) Dnipropetrovsk region.

These missiles have also in the past 24 hours targeted a Ukrainian air defense system near Mykolaivka in the Donetsk region, a radar station in the Kharkiv region, and five ammunition depots including near Severodonetsk, according to the same press release.

In Solidar, near the front line, residents live in fear and surrender. Where can I run? “They shoot from everywhere and wherever you go,” Valentina, 69, told AFP.

Lyssytchansk and Severodonetsk, the main cities in eastern Ukraine located on both sides of the Siversky Donets, are threatened with encirclement by Russian forces and pro-Russian separatists, who seek to establish complete control of the Donbass mining basin.

Two more fishing, according to Moscow

The leader of the Russian Republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, for his part claimed on Saturday evening on Telegram that “Severodonetsk is under our complete control (…) the city has been liberated.”

A little further west, the Russian Defense Ministry on Saturday confirmed the capture of a key locality of Lyman, which opens the way to the large Donbass cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

Commander of the Armed Forces of the Central Military District of Russia, General Alexander Lapin, on Sunday praised the “courage and heroism” of the Russian soldiers who participated in the capture of Lyman.

And the Ukrainian army indicated, on Sunday, that the regrouping of Russian forces is “consolidating” in this sector.

President Zelensky admitted this week that “the situation in this Donbas region (was) very difficult,” with intense artillery and missile bombardment. But he felt that “if the occupiers think that Lyman and Severodonetsk will be theirs, they are mistaken. The Donbass will be Ukrainian.

Facing the Flood

While Ukraine, the major agricultural power, is no longer able to export its grain due to the closure of its ports, Vladimir Putin, during his conversation with his French and German counterparts, stressed that his country is “ready” to help grain “without hindrance.” Export from Ukraine.

“Russia is ready to help find options for the unimpeded export of grain, including Ukrainian grain, from the Black Sea ports,” the Kremlin statement stated.

For Mr. Putin, the difficulties with food delivery were caused by the “wrong economic and financial policy of Western countries, as well as the sanctions against Russia” imposed by these countries.

In Brussels, a meeting of EU officials is scheduled for Sunday to discuss a solution to unblock the EU’s sixth package of sanctions against Russia, the main action of which is an oil embargo by the end of the year.

These new sanctions are currently blocked by Hungary, a landlocked country that does not have access to the sea and relies on oil that comes from Russia via the Druzhba pipeline, which supplies it with 65% of its consumption.

/ ATS

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