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Russian forces battle to besiege the Ukrainians in the east

Russian forces battle to besiege the Ukrainians in the east
  • Russian forces bomb 40 towns in eastern Ukraine – military
  • Mass graves of civilians killed – Governor of Luhansk
  • 8000 Ukrainian prisoners of war in Luhansk and Donetsk – TASS

Kyiv (Reuters) – Russia bombed more than 40 towns in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, destroying nearly a dozen high-rise buildings, authorities said on Thursday, as Russian forces sought to corner their Ukrainian opponents, in some places outnumbered.

After failing to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv or Kharkiv, its second city, in its three-month-old war, Russia is trying to wrest full control of Donbass on behalf of the separatists. The industrial zone includes the Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

Russia sent thousands of troops into the region, where they attacked from three sides in an attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces based in the city of Severodonetsk and its twin, Lysichansk. Their fall would leave the entire Luhansk Province under Russian control, a major objective of the Kremlin’s war.

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“Everything is now focused on the Donbass,” Vadim Denisenko, an adviser to Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, told a news briefing.

He said the situation was very tense as 25 Russian battalion tactical groups attempted to surround the Ukrainian forces.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces Combined Task Force said the Russians bombed more than 40 towns in the area and destroyed or damaged 47 civilian sites, including 38 homes and schools.

“As a result of this bombing, five civilians were killed and 12 others were wounded,” she said on Facebook, adding that 10 Russian attacks were repelled, four tanks and four drones were destroyed, and 62 “enemy soldiers” were killed.

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Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office said 11 high-rise buildings had been destroyed in Severodonetsk and eight in Lysekhansk.

Zelensky said the number of Russian forces far outnumbered Ukrainian forces in some parts of the east, and that Kyiv was trying unsuccessfully to arrange a prisoner exchange with Moscow.

a lot of prisoners

Luhansk official Rodion Miroshnik was quoted by the TASS news agency as saying that the number of Ukrainian prisoners of war being held in the Russian-backed republics of Luhansk and Donetsk is increasing daily.

“There are a lot of prisoners,” Miroshnik said. “Now the total number is somewhere in the region of 8000. That’s a lot, and hundreds are being added every day.”

Reuters was not able to independently verify any field reports from either side.

At a time when Russia seeks to tighten its grip on the territories it has seized, President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree simplifying the process for residents of the newly captured areas to obtain Russian citizenship and passports. Read more

Russia’s parliament on Wednesday abolished the maximum age for contractual service in the military, highlighting the need to replace lost troops. Read more

In a late-night video address, Zelensky, commenting on the new Russian conscription rules, said: “(They no longer have enough young men, but they still have the will to fight. It will take some time to crush that will.”

Zelensky said this week that the conflict can only end with direct talks between himself and Putin.

Russia describes its actions in Ukraine as a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say fascist allegations are baseless and the war is an unjustified act of aggression.

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Ukraine and the West say Russian forces have targeted civilians and have been implicated in war crimes, charges Russia rejects. A 21-year-old Russian tank commander was sentenced to life in prison this week after being convicted of war crimes for the murder of an unarmed civilian.

Luhansk region governor Serhiy Gaidai said that the police in Lysichansk are burying the bodies of civilians in mass graves. He added that about 150 people were buried in a cemetery in one of the regions.

Gedayi said families of buried people will be able to rebury them after the war, and police are issuing documents that enable Ukrainians to secure death certificates for their loved ones.

food crisis

Russia has imposed a blockade on ships from southern Ukraine that normally exports grain and sunflower oil through the Black Sea, driving up prices globally. The African Union on Wednesday urged the two countries to cancel the export of grain and fertilizer to avoid widespread famine.

Russia has blamed heavy Western sanctions for the food crisis. On Wednesday, it said it was ready to provide humanitarian corridor for ships carrying food, but wanted sanctions lifted in return. Read more

Economic pressures mounted on Wednesday when the United States did not extend Russia’s license to pay bondholders, pushing it to the brink of a historic default on its debt.

The exemption has allowed Russia to continue paying government debts so far. Read more

The European Commission has proposed making it a crime to break sanctions against Russia. Read more

The European Union also hoped to agree on sanctions on Russian oil before the next meeting of EU leaders.

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But Russia, for the time being at least, is not short of money. Oil and gas revenues reached $28 billion in April alone thanks to higher energy prices. Read more

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Reporting by Reuters offices. Written by Michael Perry and Robert Percell; Editing by Lincoln Fest and Gareth Jones

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.