Ukrainian defenders hold out in Donbass city under heavy fire

  • Russian forces invest resources in the battle
  • The city of Sievierodonetsk attacked
  • Ukraine demands more weapons from the West
  • EU cannot agree on Russian oil embargo; more talk monday

KYIV/KHARKIV, Ukraine, May 29 (Reuters) – Ukrainian forces endured heavy artillery barrages on Sunday as Russian forces stepped up their attacks to seize a town in the eastern region of Luhansk, which it said President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, was now Moscow’s main target.

Constant Russian shelling has destroyed all critical infrastructure in Sievierodonetsk, the largest city Ukraine still controls in Luhansk, Zelenskiy said, while pledging to do everything to delay the advance.

“About 90% of the buildings are damaged. More than two-thirds of the city’s building stock has been completely destroyed. There is no telecommunication,” he said in a televised address.

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“Capturing Sievierodonetsk is a fundamental task for the occupiers… We are doing everything possible to contain this advance,” he added.

The “liberation” of Donbass, which includes the regions of Lugansk and Donetsk, is an “unconditional priority” for Russia, the RIA news agency said on Sunday, citing Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Read more

In a Facebook post, Ukrainian forces in Donbass said they were on the defensive all day Sunday. Russian forces fired on 46 communities in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, killing at least three civilians, wounding two others, or destroying or damaging 62 civilian buildings.

The Battle of Sievierodonetsk, which sits on the eastern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, is in the spotlight as Russia makes slow but solid gains in the part of the country close to the Russian border.

Having failed to take the capital Kyiv at the start of the war, Russia is seeking to consolidate its grip on Donbass, much of which is already controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.

He concentrated enormous firepower in a small area – a contrast to earlier phases of the conflict where his forces were often scattered – pounding towns and villages with artillery and airstrikes.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government has urged the West to provide it with more longer-range weapons to turn the tide of the war, which is now in its fourth month. Zelenskiy expressed hope that the weapons would be delivered and that he expected “good news” in the coming days.

US officials have said such weapons systems are being actively considered.

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington said the Russians had still failed to encircle Sievierodonetsk and that the Ukrainian defenders had inflicted “terrible casualties” on them.

The Ukrainians were themselves suffering heavy casualties, both civilians and combatants, they said in a briefing document.

Russia’s focus on Sievierodonetsk had drawn resources from other battlefronts and as a result they had made little headway elsewhere, analysts said.

A Reuters reporter in the area said a ceramics factory was almost completely destroyed on the outskirts of the Donetsk town of Bakhmut, which straddles the last main road to Sievierodonetsk and is just 10 km (6 miles ) from the front line.

The reporter heard what sounded like outgoing artillery fire and Russian planes dropping a bomb near the town. Several carriers with Ukrainian soldiers could be seen in the area.

RUSSIAN OIL EMBARGO

Russia says its “special military operation” aims to rid Ukraine of nationalists threatening Russian speakers. Ukraine and Western countries claim that Russia’s claims are a false pretext for a war of aggression and that the West has imposed a barrage of sanctions targeting Moscow while delivering arms shipments to help the Ukrainian government to defend themselves.

However, after nearly half a dozen rounds of punitive measures, some against oligarchs close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the banks, unity within the European Union is once again put to the test as the bloc failed Sunday to agree on an embargo on Russian oil. . Talks will continue on Monday. Read more

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck expressed fears that EU unity was “starting to crumble”. The bloc’s leaders are due to meet Monday and Tuesday at a summit to discuss a new sanctions package against Russia, including the oil embargo.

Meanwhile, Zelenskiy – who won wide admiration in the West for his leadership in the conflict – visited Ukrainian troops on the front lines in the northeastern region of Kharkiv.

Several explosions were heard in the city of Kharkiv hours after Sunday’s visit, a Reuters reporter said, in what was Zelenskiy’s first trip outside the Kyiv region since the invasion began.

A large plume of smoke could be seen rising northeast of the center of the city, which has been the target of Russian bombardment in recent days after several weeks of relative calm. Read more

“You are risking your life for all of us and for our country,” the president’s office said, quoting his soldiers, as he handed out congratulations and gifts.

Elsewhere, Ukraine’s military command said its forces were counterattacking in the southern region of Kherson, most of which is occupied by Russia.

The Mykolaiv regional administration said residential areas in the city of Mykolaiv were shelled on Sunday morning, killing one civilian and injuring at least six.

Reuters was unable to verify the information.

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Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Conor Humphries, Pavel Polityuk and Bogdan Kochubey in Kyiv, David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Lidia Kelley in Melbourne; Written by Angus MacSwan and Humeyra Pamuk; Editing by Tomasz Janowski and Grant McCool

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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