Zelenskyy defiant as Russia intensifies attacks in east, seizes territory

KYIV: Ukraine acknowledges fighting difficulties in its east as Russian forces seize territory and ramp up pressure on two cities ahead of this week’s EU summit, expected to welcome Kyiv’s entry into the bloc.
The governor of the Luhansk region, which has suffered the heaviest Russian attacks in recent weeks, said the situation was “extremely difficult” along the front lines as of Monday evening and that Russian troops were concentrated. enough reserve force to initiate a large-scale attack.
President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy had predicted Russia would step up its attacks ahead of the EU summit on Thursday and Friday. In a speech to the nation on Monday night, he challenged, while referring to the “difficult” war in Luhansk for Sievierodonetsk and its sister city, Lysychansk.
“We are defending Lysychansk, Sievierodonetsk, this whole region, the hardest region. We have the hardest fight there,” he said. “But we have strong boys and girls there.”
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russian forces controlled most of Sievierodonetsk, with the exception of the Azot chemical plant, where hundreds of civilians had been sheltering for weeks. The road connecting Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk to the city of Bakhmut was under constant shelling, he said.
“Lysychansk was under heavy Russian shelling throughout the day,” Gaidai said. “The number of casualties could not be determined.”
Rodion Miroshnik, ambassador to Russia of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, said their forces were “moving from the south to Lysychansk” with gun battles breaking out in several towns.
“The coming hours will bring significant changes to the balance of forces in the region,” he said on Telegram.
The approval of the EU leaders for Ukraine to be the official candidate to join the bloc would be a victory for Kyiv.
It signed up for membership just four days after the Russian invasion on 24 February. It will take years to achieve, but for the EU to reach deep into the heart of the former Soviet Union will bring one of Europe’s greatest economic and social transformations since the Cold War.
Russia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on February 24 in what it called a “special operation” aimed at degrading its military capabilities and rooting out what it calls the “terrorists”. dangerous nationalism.
It enacted a law making it an offense to spread “intentionally false” information or reports that could discredit the Russian military.
Dmitry Muratov, co-winner of the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize and editor of an independent Russian newspaper, has auctioned off his Nobel medal for a record $103.5 million to aid children. displaced by the war. His article, harshly criticizing the Chairman Vladimir Putinsuspended operations in Russia in March after warnings about the country’s coverage of the war.
The war has entered a brutal phase in recent weeks, with Russian forces focusing on Ukrainian-controlled parts of the Donbas, which Russia claims represents the separatists.
Ukrainian officials reported three civilians killed in Russian shelling in the Donetsk region on Monday and three others in shelling in the Kharkiv region.
In Odesa, Ukraine’s largest Black Sea port, which is blockaded by the Russian navy, a Russian missile destroyed a food depot on Monday, the Ukrainian military said.
The United States and its European allies have provided arms and financial support to Ukraine but have avoided direct involvement in the conflict. However, some US citizens have volunteered to fight for Ukraine.
On Monday, the Kremlin said two Americans detained in Ukraine were mercenaries not covered by the Geneva convention who must be held accountable for their actions.
Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry PeskovTheir comments are the first official admission that two people, identified in US reports as Andy Huynh, 27, and Alexander Drueke, 39, are in custody.
A spokesman for the US State Department said it was in contact with Russian authorities about any US citizens who may have been arrested.
“We call on the Russian government – as well as its proxies – to comply with their international obligations in the treatment of any individual, including those arrested during the war in Ukraine. .”
This month, a separatist court sentenced two Britons and a Moroccan to death to death after they were arrested for fighting for Ukraine.
Peskov also said the American basketball star Brittney Grinerwas held in Russia for more than two months, charged with drug offenses and not allowed to be held hostage.
At least two Americans were killed in the war.
International concern is centered on trying to revive Ukraine’s food exports, now shut down by Russia’s de facto blockade. Ukraine is one of the world’s main sources of cereals and food oils, leading to concerns about global shortages.
Russia blames the food crisis on Western sanctions that limit its exports.
The war has also disrupted energy markets, including Russian oil and gas shipments to Europe, which remain the continent’s main source of energy and a major source of Russian income. Russia says EU sanctions have prevented it from restoring pipeline equipment.
Russia threatened to retaliate against EU member Lithuania for banning shipments of coal, metals, building materials and advanced technology to Kaliningrad, a Russian outpost on the Baltic Sea surrounded by EU territory.
The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned Lithuania’s top diplomat and demanded that the country reverse its “openly hostile” move or that Russia “has the right to take actions to protect its national interests”. Lithuania says EU sanctions force it to enforce the ban.

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