3/3 © Reuters. Smoke rises over a self-propelled howitzer 2S1 Gvozdika of pro-Russian troops, which opened a leaflet in the direction of Svierodonetsk to disseminate information from the state of war in the Luhansk region of Ukraine, May 24, 2022. REUTERS/Al
by Max Hunder and Conor Humphries
KYIV (Reuters) – Russian forces have intensified their attack on the Ukrainian city of Svyarodonetsk after Kiev claimed to have captured the nearby rail hub of Lyman, after intensifying calls for long-range weapons from the west.
Slow, solid Russian gains in recent days in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass, which includes the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, point to a subtle pace shift in the war, which is now in its fourth month.
The invading forces appear close to capturing the entire Luhansk region, one of the more modest combat goals set after the Kremlin abandoned its attack on the capital Kyiv in the face of Ukrainian resistance.
Russia’s defense ministry said on Saturday that its troops and allied separatist forces have taken full control of Lyman, the site of a railway junction west of the Siversky Donets River in Donetsk.
However, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hannah Malayar said the fight for Lyman was on, the ZN.ua website reported.
Svyarodonetsk, about 60 km (40 mi) from Lyman on the eastern bank of the river and the largest Ukrainian-occupied city of Donbass, was under heavy attack from the Russians.
“Sevierodonetsk is under constant enemy fire,” the Ukrainian police posted on social media.
Russian artillery was also pounding the Lysychansk–Bakhmut road, which Russia must take to stop a pincer movement and encircle the Ukrainian army.
“There has been a huge devastation in Lisichansk,” the police said.
The governor of Luhansk said on Friday that Russian troops had already entered Svyarodonetsk. Governor Serhi Gaidai said Ukrainian troops may have to withdraw from the city to avoid capture. It was not clear whether he started making out on Saturday.
Ukraine’s presidential adviser and peace negotiator Mykhailo Podolik reiterated a call for a US-made long-range multiple-rocket launcher. US officials have told Reuters that such systems are being actively considered, with a decision likely in the coming days.
Podolik posted on Twitter: “It’s hard to fight when you’re attacked from 70km away and you have nothing to fight. Ukraine may return Russia behind the Iron Curtain, but we have to Effective weapons are needed.”
President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed hope in a late-night video address that Ukraine’s allies would provide the necessary weapons, saying he expected “good news” this week.
Ukrainian forces in the Donbass said in a brief Facebook (NASDAQ:) post that they remained on the defensive all day, withstood seven Russian attacks and destroyed one tank.
Governor Gaidai said that about 90% of the buildings in Svierodonetsk were damaged, with 14 high-rise buildings destroyed in the latest shelling.
Reuters could not independently verify the claims.
Zelensky said that the military situation in the Donbass was very complex, adding that defenses were being conducted in several places, including Svyarodonetsk and Lisichansk.
“It’s indescribably difficult out there. And I’m grateful to all those who endured this attack,” he said.
The British Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence report that if Russia is successful in capturing those areas, the Kremlin would see it as a “substantial political achievement” that it could use to justify its invasion of the Russian people. could.
In a sign of despair over Western differences over the war, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyana said NATO had shown itself to be unable to deliver a united response.
“If Ukraine is defeated, we must speak frankly about the disastrous consequences for the future of the whole of Europe,” she said on Facebook.
Zelensky said in a televised interview that he believed Russia would agree to talks if Ukraine could recapture all the territory lost since the invasion began on February 24.
Nevertheless, Zelensky rejected the idea of using force to win back all the land that Ukraine had lost to Russia since 2014, including the southern peninsula of Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow that year. .
“I don’t believe we can restore our entire territory by military means. If we decide to go that route, we will lose hundreds of thousands of people,” he said.
Russia says it is conducting a “special military operation” to demilitarize Ukraine and rid it of nationalists who threaten Russian-speaking countries there. Ukraine and the West say Russia’s claims are a false pretext for a war of aggression.
Thousands of people, including many civilians, have been killed and several million have fled their homes, either in safer parts of Ukraine or in other countries.
Officials in the second city of Kharkiv said six civilians were wounded in the latest Russian shelling.
guns and grain
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin in a call on Saturday, advancing diplomatic efforts to find a solution to a conflict that has implications beyond Ukraine’s borders.
France said it urged the lifting of the Russian blockade on Odessa port to allow grain exports from Ukraine. The Kremlin said Putin told them Moscow was ready to discuss ways to make it possible for Ukraine to resume grain shipments from Black Sea ports.
Ukraine is a major grain exporter, and disruptions to its exports threaten food shortages in many countries, including Africa.