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Russia is trying to direct its offensive to the eastern part of Ukraine

POKROVSK – Russian forces tried on Monday to push their offensive deeper into eastern Ukraine after seizing control of a key stronghold.

The Ukrainian army confirmed that its forces had withdrawn from the city of Lisichansk, the last bastion of Ukrainian resistance in Luhansk region, one of two regions that make up the eastern industrial heartland of the Donbas country. The Russians also control about half of Donetsk, the second province of Donbass.

On Monday, an intelligence briefing from Britain’s Ministry of Defense said Russian forces would “now almost certainly” move to capture Donetsk, much of which remains under the control of Ukrainian forces. The briefing said the conflict in Donbass was “grinding and exhausting” and unlikely to change in the coming weeks.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Army reported that Russian forces are currently focusing their efforts on the push towards the Siversk, Fedorovka and Bakhmut lines in the Donetsk region. The Russian army has also stepped up shelling of key Ukrainian strongholds of Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, deeper in Donetsk.

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On Sunday, six people, including a 9-year-old girl, were killed in Russian shelling in Slavyansk and 19 others were wounded, according to local authorities. Kramatorsk was also shelled on Sunday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has made the capture of all of Donbas a key goal in his war in Ukraine, now in its fifth month. Moscow-backed separatists in Donbas have been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014, when they declared independence from Kyiv following Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea. Russia formally recognized the self-proclaimed republics days before its February 24 invasion of Ukraine.

Putin’s defense minister reported to him on Sunday that the Russian army and its separatist allies now hold the entire Luhansk region after taking “full control” of Lisichansk.

In his overnight video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged the withdrawal but promised that Ukrainian forces would fight their way back.

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“If the command of our army withdraws people from certain points on the front where the enemy has the greatest fire superiority, in particular this applies to Lisichansk, this means only one thing: we will return thanks to our tactics, thanks to the increase in supply of modern weapons,” Zelensky said.

Since failing to capture Kyiv and other areas in northeastern Ukraine at the start of the war, Russia has focused on the Donbass, unleashing fierce shelling and engaging in house-to-house fighting that has devastated the region’s cities.

Russia’s invasion has also devastated Ukraine’s agricultural sector, severing supply chains for seeds and fertilizers needed by Ukrainian farmers and blocking grain exports, a key source of income for the country.

In its intelligence report on Monday, Britain’s Ministry of Defense pointed to Russia’s blockade of the key Ukrainian port of Odessa, which has severely limited grain exports. They predicted that Ukraine’s agricultural exports would reach only 35% of the 2021 total this year as a result.

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As Moscow pushed its offensive into eastern Ukraine, areas in western Russia came under attack on Sunday in a resumption of sporadic apparent Ukrainian strikes across the border. The governor of Belgorod region in western Russia said fragments of an intercepted Ukrainian missile killed four people on Sunday. Two Ukrainian drones were shot down in the Russian city of Kursk, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced.

In other developments:

— Ukrainian soldiers returning from the front lines in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region — where Russia is waging a fierce offensive — describe life during what has become a grueling war of attrition as apocalyptic.

— Two Russian planes took off from Bulgaria on Sunday carrying dozens of Russian diplomats and their families amid a mass expulsion that has led to rising tensions between the historically close nations, a Russian diplomat said.

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Associated Press reporters Maria Grazia Muru and Alexander Stashevsky contributed from Kyiv, Ukraine.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the Russia-Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

Russia is trying to direct its offensive to the eastern part of Ukraine

Source link Russia is trying to direct its offensive to the eastern part of Ukraine

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