Ukrainian defenders hold out in Donbass under heavy fire


  • Russian forces pour resources into the battle
  • Severodonetsk city under attack
  • Ukraine orders more weapons from the West
  • EU cannot agree on Russian oil embargo; More conversations Monday

Kyiv/Kharkiv, Ukraine (Reuters) – Russian forces have intensified their attacks with heavy artillery to capture a key Ukrainian city in the southeastern Donbass region, which Moscow’s top diplomat said is now an “unconditional priority”.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the ongoing Russian bombing has destroyed all vital infrastructure in Severodonetsk, the largest city still Ukraine-controlled in Luhansk, one of the Donbass regions, while vowing to do everything in his power to repel the advance.

“About 90% of the buildings were damaged. More than two-thirds of the housing in the city was completely destroyed. There is no telecommunications,” he said in a televised speech.

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“The capture of Severodonetsk is an essential task of the occupiers… We are doing everything we can to achieve this progress,” he added.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sunday that the “liberation” of the Donbass industrial zone, which includes Luhansk and Donetsk, is an “unconditional priority” for Russia. 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 and wounding two others, or destroying or damaging 62 civilian buildings.

Russian bombing also continued across several regions such as Novi Poh, Mykolaiv and Sumy. The city council of Novi Poh in southern Ukraine’s Mykolaiv region said on its Telegram channel that a Russian missile attack caused heavy damage in the city center.

The Battle of Severodonetsk, located on the eastern bank of the Seversky Donets River, is in the spotlight as Russia makes slow but strong gains in a part of the country near the Russian border.

Having failed to capture the capital Kyiv in the first phase of the war, Russia is seeking to tighten its grip on the Donbass River, large parts of which are already controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.

They concentrated huge firepower on a small area – in contrast to earlier phases of the conflict when their forces were often thinly spread – and struck towns and cities with artillery and airstrikes.

Meanwhile, the Ukrainian government has urged the West to provide it with more long-range weapons in order to turn the tide in the war, now in its fourth month. Zelensky expressed his hope that the weapons would be provided and that he expected “good news” in the coming days.

US officials said such weapons systems are being actively considered.

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington said the Russians had not yet managed to encircle Severodonetsk and that the Ukrainian defenders had inflicted “terrifying casualties” on them.

They said in an information paper that the Ukrainians are incurring themselves heavy losses, both civilians and fighters.

Analysts said Russia’s focus on Severodonetsk has drawn resources from other battlefronts and as a result has made little progress elsewhere.

A Reuters journalist in the area said a ceramics factory had been almost completely destroyed on the outskirts of the Donetsk town of Bakhmut, which lies on the last major road in Severodonetsk and is only 10 km from the front line.

The journalist heard what appeared to be outgoing artillery fire and Russian planes dropping a bomb near the town. A number of Ukrainian troop carriers were seen in the area.

An embargo on Russian oil

Russia says its “special military operation” aims to rid Ukraine of nationalists who threaten Russian speakers. Ukraine and Western countries say Russia’s allegations are a false excuse to launch a war of aggression, and the West has imposed a barrage of sanctions targeting Moscow while delivering arms shipments to help the Ukrainian government defend itself.

However, after nearly six rounds of punitive measures, some against oligarchs close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and banks, unity within the European Union is being tested again as the bloc failed on Sunday to agree on a ban on Russian oil. . Talks will continue on Monday. Read more

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

Meanwhile, Zelensky – widely admired in the West for his leadership of the conflict – visited Ukrainian forces on the front lines in the northeastern Kharkiv region.

A Reuters journalist said several explosions were heard in the city of Kharkiv hours after a visit on Sunday, on Zelensky’s first trip outside the Kyiv region since the invasion began.

Thick plumes of smoke were seen rising northeast of the city center, which has been the target of Russian bombing in recent days, after several weeks of relative calm. Read more

“You are risking your lives for all of us and for our country,” the president’s office quoted him as telling the soldiers as he handed out tributes and gifts.

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Additional reporting by Natalia Zenets, Conor Humphries, Pavel Politiuk and Bogdan Kochobe in Kyiv, David Leungren in Ottawa, Lydia Kelly in Melbourne; Written by Angus McSwan and Humira Pamuk; Editing by Grant McCall and Stephen Coates

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.