Russian troops approach important Ukrainian city in the east

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accuses Moscow of committing a “genocide” in the eastern Donbas region, where the city of Severodonetsk is under heavy Russian shelling. COMPLETE VID32B89EH_EN

Russian forces on Friday entered the strategic city of Severodonetsk in a relentless offensive to control Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, bombing residential areas and claiming the capture of an important city.

At least nine people were killed a day earlier in shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, raising fears that Russia had not lost interest in the northeastern hub even after Ukraine managed to take back control.

Three months after Russia launched its invasion on February 24, killing thousands on both sides and forcing 6.6 million Ukrainians out of the country, Moscow is targeting eastern Ukraine after failing its initial ambition to take Kiev. success.

“Russia is putting pressure on the Severodonetsk pocket, though Ukraine retains control of multiple undefended sectors, denying Russia full control of the Donbas,” the Defense Ministry said in its latest briefing.

This was denied by senior city official Oleksandr Stryuk, although he acknowledged that the situation was “very difficult” with incessant bombing.

Lugansk’s regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said in a video posted to Telegram that at least five civilians have been killed in his region alone in the past 24 hours.

“They are so psychologically depressed that they are no longer afraid. All they care about is finding food,” he said.

Oleg Sinegubov, governor of the Kharkiv region, said nine civilians were killed in the Russian shelling on Thursday.

Kharkiv mayor Igor Terekhov said the metro system, which resumed operations this week after being used mainly as a shelter since the Russian invasion, would continue to operate while still providing a safe space for residents.

Observers believe Russia’s gains in more than three months of war have been much poorer than President Vladimir Putin had hoped, though Moscow has gained control of a handful of cities in southern Ukraine, such as Kherson and Mariupol.

Russian authorities in Mariupol, taken over this month after a devastating siege that left thousands dead and the city in ruins, canceled school holidays to prepare students for the transition to a Russian curriculum, Kiev said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to speak with EU leaders at an emergency summit Monday as they try to agree on oil sanctions against Russia, which are being held back by Hungary, whose Prime Minister Viktor Orban has close relations with Putin.

– ‘Fear of escalation’ –

Ukraine has also suggested that Putin should be offered an “off-ramp” to save face in a compromise deal that would see Kiev give up a certain area.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he feared Putin “continued to chew through soil in Donbas”.

– ‘Must act’ –

Only Russia and Ukraine produce 30 percent of the world’s wheat supply, while grain ships cannot leave ports in Ukraine.

On Thursday, Putin told Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi that Moscow is ready to make a “significant contribution” to averting a looming food crisis if the West lifts sanctions imposed since its invasion of Ukraine.

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Originally published as Russian troops approach the main city in Ukraine in the east

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