Russia seizes small city, aims to expand fighting in eastern Ukraine

KRAMATOLSK, Ukraine (AP) — President Vladimir Putin on Saturday sought to sway Europe by punishing his country with sanctions as Russia made progress in its stated goal of occupying the entirety of disputed eastern Ukraine. The determination to continue to provide weapons in support of Ukraine’s defense.

Lehman, the second small city to fall this week, has been “completely liberated” by a coalition of Russian soldiers and Kremlin-backed separatists who have waged an eight-year campaign in the Donbas industrial zone bordering Russia, the Russian Defense Ministry said. war.

Ukraine’s train system transports arms and evacuates citizens through Lehman, the main railway hub in the east. Controlling it would also give Russian troops another foothold in the region. It has bridges for troops and equipment to cross the Siverskiy Donets river, which has so far hindered Russian advances to the Donbass.

Ukrainian officials sent different signals to Lehmann. Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kirilenko said on Friday that Russian troops controlled most of the area and were trying to push the offensive on Bakhmut, another city in the region. On Saturday, Deputy Defense Minister Hannah Malial disputed Moscow’s claim that Lehmann had fallen, saying fighting continued there.

In a video address Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky described the situation in the east as “very complicated” and said “the Russian army is trying to achieve at least some results there by concentrating its forces”.

The Kremlin said Putin had an 80-minute phone call with leaders of France and Germany on Saturday in which he warned against continued transfers of Western arms to Ukraine and blamed Western sanctions for the conflict’s disruption of global food supplies.

German Chancellor Olaf Schultz and French President Emmanuel Macron urged Russia to cease fire immediately and withdraw Russian troops, and called on Putin to engage in serious, direct negotiations with Zelensky to end the fighting.

Putin affirmed “the Russian side is open to resuming dialogue,” the Kremlin said in a readout of the call. It added that the three leaders, who had not spoken for several weeks in the spring, agreed to stay in touch.

But recent Russian progress in Donetsk and Luhansk, the two provinces that make up the Donbass, could further encourage Putin. Since failing to capture Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, Russia has set out to capture the last parts of the region free from separatist control.

In its assessment on Saturday, the MoD said: “If Russia does succeed in taking over these areas, it is highly likely that the Kremlin will see it as a substantial political achievement and will be described by the Russian people as a justification for the invasion. “

Russia has stepped up its capture of the city of West Viro Donetsk and the nearby city of Lysichansk, the last major Ukrainian-controlled area in Luhansk.

Ukrainian fighters repelled the attack on Silviero Donetsk, but Russian troops were still advancing to surround them, Luhansk Governor Serchy Heyday reported. He later said Russian troops occupied a hotel on the outskirts of the city, damaged 14 high-rise buildings and engaged Ukrainian troops in the streets.

Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Striuk said a day earlier that about 1,500 civilians had died in the city, which had a pre-war population of about 100,000, including a lack of medicines or untreatable diseases.

South of Westvero Donetsk on Friday, Associated Press reporters saw elderly and sick civilians strapped to soft stretchers slowly carried down the stairs of Bakhmut’s apartment building.

Svetlana Lvova, manager of two buildings in Bachmut, tried to persuade reluctant residents to leave, but said she and her husband would wait for their son in Sivye Donetsk to return home Evacuate afterward.

“I have to know he’s alive. That’s why I’m here,” said Lvova, 66.

Those who managed to escape Lysychansk on Saturday described intensified shelling, especially over the past week, preventing them from getting out of the underground dugout.

Yana Skakova left the city on Friday with her 18-month-old and 4-year-old sons, crying as she sat on a train bound for western Ukraine. Her husband stayed to take care of their house and animals.

“It’s too dangerous to be there now,” she said, wiping away tears.

Russia’s progress has sparked fears that residents could experience the same horrors as the southeastern port city of Mariupol, which endured a three-month siege before falling last week. Residents who have not yet fled face the choice of trying to flee now or staying. Mariupol became a symbol of mass destruction and human suffering, as well as Ukraine’s determination to defend the country.

The port of Mariupol has resumed operations after Russian troops cleared mines in the Sea of ​​Azov, according to reports. Russia’s state news agency TASS reported that a vessel bound for Rostov-on-Don in southern Russia entered port early Saturday.

The Kremlin said Putin stressed in his call with Macron and Scholz that Russia was working to “establish a peaceful life in Mariupol and other liberated cities in the Donbass”.

Germany and France brokered a 2015 peace deal between Ukraine and Russia that would give Moscow-backed rebel regions in eastern Ukraine a large degree of autonomy. However, the deal stalled long before Russia’s February invasion. With both Kyiv and Moscow taking an uncompromising stance, any hope of a new peace deal between Paris and Berlin now looks unlikely.

Ukrainian authorities report that Kremlin officials in the occupied cities have started broadcasting Russian news broadcasts, introducing Russian area codes, introducing Russian school curricula and taking other steps to annex the areas.

Russian state news agency RIA Novosti quoted local Russian official Krill Stremousov as saying that the southern part of the Russian-controlled Kherson region has been changed to Moscow time and “will no longer switch to daylight saving time as is the practice in Ukraine.” Say Saturday.

In his speech on Saturday, Zelensky also accused Russian troops of preventing Kherson residents from leaving, saying they were actually “trying to take hostages” as a sign of “weakness.”

The war caused global food shortages because Ukraine was a major exporter of grain and other commodities. Moscow and Kyiv have been blaming which party is responsible for seizing the cargo, with Russia saying Ukrainian mines impeded safe passage and Ukraine citing a Russian naval blockade.

Ukraine’s naval press service said two Russian ships “capable of carrying up to 16 missiles” were ready for action in the Black Sea, adding that only routes established through multilateral treaties could be considered safe.

Ukrainian officials have pressed Western countries for more sophisticated and powerful weapons. The Pentagon would not confirm a CNN report on Friday that the Biden administration is preparing to send long-range rocket systems.

Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Anatoly Antonov, said on Saturday such a move was “unacceptable” and told the White House to “drop its statement on Ukraine’s military victory.”

Moscow is also trying to shake the resolve of Sweden and Finland to join NATO. Russia’s Defense Ministry said its navy successfully launched a new hypersonic missile from the Barents Sea, hitting a target about 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) away.

If confirmed, the launch could spell trouble for NATO’s navigation in the Arctic and North Atlantic. Described as the world’s fastest non-ballistic missile, the Zircon can be equipped with a conventional or nuclear warhead and is said to be unstoppable by current defenses.

Last week, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu announced that Russia would form new military units in the western part of the country in response to applications from Sweden and Finland to join NATO.

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