Russians, Ukrainians fight block by block in eastern city

Russians, Ukrainians fight block by block in eastern city thumbnail

KRAMATORSK (Ukraine) — Russian forces advanced deeper into an eastern Ukrainian city, fighting with Kyiv’s troops Monday in a battle that, according to the mayor, has left Sievierodonetsk ruined and driven tens or thousands of people from their homes.

Military analysts referred to the sievierodonetsk battle as part of a race against the clock for the Kremlin. The city is important to Russian efforts to quickly complete the capture of the eastern industrial region of the Donbas before more Western arms arrive to bolster Ukraine‘s defense.

Weapons of the West had previously helped Kyiv’s forces stop a Russian advance against the capital in the first weeks of war. Moscow was forced to retreat, regroup, and pursue the less important objective of seizing Donbas. There, the Moscow-backed separatists have held large swathes of territory and have been fighting Ukrainian troops since eight years.

“The Kremlin has reckoned that it can’t afford to waste time and should use the last chance to extend the separatist-controlled territory because the arrival of Western weapons in Ukraine could make it impossible,” Ukrainian military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said. In a possible setback for Ukraine however, U.S. President Joe Biden seemed to dismiss reports that the U.S. was looking at sending long-range missile systems to the country.

In addition, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeatedly called for weapons from allies and demanded that European countries and other countries punish Russia for its aggression by imposing sanctions and embargoes against Moscow’s lucrative oil sector. Zelenskyy, in a video address Monday to European Union leaders asked the 27 countries of the bloc to target Russian oil exports so Moscow “feels it is paying for what it’s doing against Ukraine.”

European Union leaders came to a compromise Monday to impose an oil embargo on Russia. The embargo, which is a watered down version of the original one, only covers Russian oil imported by sea. It allows for temporary exemptions for imports by pipeline.

EU Council President Charles Michel stated on Twitter that the agreement covers more Russian oil imports than two-thirds. This “cuts a huge source for financing its war machine.” Maximum pressure on Russia to stop the war Russia also tried to use its energy exports in its favor, cutting off natural gas supplies to a few European countries to punish and divide West for its support of Ukraine. Gazrpom, the Russian state gas giant, announced that it will stop gas supplies to GasTerra beginning Tuesday.

Zelenskyy stated that the situation in Donbas is “extremely difficult” because Russia has placed its army’s “maximum fighting power” there.

The Ukrainian military stated that Russian forces had strengthened their positions in the northeastern and southeast outskirts Sievierodonetsk. This city 145 km miles south of the Russian border, in an area that is still under Ukrainian government control in Luhansk.

Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Striuk said the city has been “completely ruined.” Artillery barrages have destroyed critical infrastructure and damaged 90% of the buildings, and power and communications have been largely cut to a city that was once home to 100,000 people, he said.

” The number of casualties is increasing every hour, but it’s difficult to count the injured and dead in the street fighting,” Striuk said to The Associated Press over a telephone interview. He also stated that Moscow’s troops had advanced a few blocks towards the city center.

He said that only about 12,000 to 13,000 residents remain, sheltering in basements and bunkers to escape the Russian bombardment. This situation is reminiscent of the siege at Mariupol which left many people trapped and caused some of the most severe suffering during the war.

Striuk estimates that 1 ,500 civilians died in Sievierodonetsk, Russia’s attacks and dire conditions including a lack of medical treatment and medicine. More than 20,000 are feared dead in Mariupol.

A 32-year-old French journalist, Frederic Leclerc-Imhoff, died Monday near Sievierodonetsk when he was hit by shrapnel from shelling while covering Ukrainians evacuating the area, according to his employer, French broadcaster BFM TV.

Zelenskyy stated that Leclerc­­Imhoff was the 32nd media worker who died in Ukraine since February, when Russia invaded. 24.

While we are focusing on Sievierodonetsk and Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai stated that the Russians were also moving toward Lysychansk. He said that two civilians were also killed in the latest Russian bombardment.

Three civilians were also shot to death Monday in Donetsk, which, along with Luhansk, makes up the Donbas. One person was reported dead by authorities in Kharkiv in the latest shelling attack on Ukraine’s second largest city.

The Russian advance in Sievierodonetsk, and Lysychansk, on the strategically important Siverskiy Donetsk River, is part of an all out push, according to Zhdanov the Ukrainian military analyst.

Zelenskyy stated that Russian troops also attacked Kharkiv and the Sumy region close to the Russian border on Monday. He stated that the struggle for the south Kherson region continued, which has been held in large part by Russian troops since the beginning of the war. Russian-installed officials said they would request the Kremlin to annexe it. Kyiv has, however, vowed to liberate that region.

Zelenskyy said Monday that “step by step, we are liberating our land and gradually approaching the point where Russia will still have to lay down its arms, count all its dead and move on to diplomacy.”

The intensity of the latest fighting and the influx of Russian troops have surprised Ukrainians, who are trying to hold out until more weapons can arrive, Zhdanov said.

Biden said Monday that the United States does not intend to send long-range missile systems to Ukraine. However, there have been reports that this move is being considered. Dmitry Medvedev (deputy head of Russia’s Security Council) called it a “reasonable” move. He said that “otherwise, if our cities come under attack, the Russian armed forces would fulfill their threat and strike the centers where such criminal decisions are made.”

Medvedev added that “some of them aren’t in Kyiv.”

In the Kherson region, the Russia-installed deputy head of the regional administration, Kirill Stremousov, told Russia’s Tass state news agency that grain from last year’s harvest is being delivered to Russian buyers, adding that “obviously there is a lot of grain here.”

Russia, meanwhile, has pressed the West to lift sanctions against it as it seeks to shift the blame for the growing food crisis, which has led to skyrocketing prices in Africa.

Zelenskyy claimed that the Russian blockade on Ukrainian sea ports is stopping Kyiv exporting 22 millions of grain for foreign markets. He said that Moscow was responsible for “deliberately creating the problem” and that Russia’s claim that sanctions are to blame is a fabrication. He claimed that sanctions have not blocked Russian food and that Russia has stolen at least half a million tons of Ukrainian grain.

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Karmanau reported from Lviv. This report was contributed by AP journalists from around the globe.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the Ukraine war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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