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War in Ukraine: Russian forces advance in key city of Severodonetsk

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On the 101st day of the war in Ukraine, Russian forces continue their offensive in the Donbass, particularly around the city of Severodonetsk. During the night of Monday to Tuesday, the 27 member countries of the European Union agreed on a progressive embargo on Russian oil. It will first concern oil transported by boat, ie two-thirds of European purchases.

THE ESSENTIAL

Ukraine has won a battle to secure an embargo on Russian oil from the Europeans, but its military is backing away from a Russian steamroller in eastern Ukraine, where Moscow forces now control part of the key city from Severodonetsk. After several weeks of blocking on the part of Hungary, the 27 leaders of the European Union reached an agreement on a gradual embargo during the night of Monday to Tuesday, during a summit in Brussels which continued on Tuesday. The embargo will initially only affect oil transported by boat, ie two-thirds of European purchases of Russian black gold, and not that transported by pipeline, which made it possible to lift Budapest’s veto.

“This will cut off a huge source of funding for Russia’s war machine,” European Council President Charles Michel tweeted. The extension of the embargo to deliveries by pipeline will then be discussed “as soon as possible” and, in total, 90% of Russian oil exports to the EU will be stopped by the end of the year, said European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and French President Emmanuel Macron. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had earlier challenged the Europeans on their need to stand up to Moscow, in a video message broadcast during the extraordinary summit in Brussels.

Two Russian soldiers sentenced to 11 years in prison

On the judicial front, Ukrainian justice continues to move forward with a beating drum in the judgment of “war crimes” committed according to it by Russian troops. After a Russian soldier was sentenced to life on May 23 for the murder of a civilian, a Ukrainian court on Tuesday sentenced two Russian soldiers accused of bombing two villages with multiple missile launchers to 11 and a half years in prison. of the Kharkiv region on the first day of the Russian invasion. Alexander Bobykin and Alexander Ivanov were found guilty of “violation of the laws and customs of war”, announced the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine on Telegram.

On Monday, the Prosecutor General of Ukraine Iryna Venediktova announced the opening of a first case concerning a rape committed by Russian soldiers. In total, Ukraine has identified 15,000 cases of alleged war crimes across the country since the start of the war, Iryna Venediktova said during a visit to The Hague (Netherlands).

Unblock Ukrainian ports

But even a one-off ceasefire seemed unlikely, in the absence of any peace talks. One of the next priorities for Westerners seems to be the unblocking of Ukrainian Black Sea ports. A Russian blockade is paralyzing the export of tens of tonnes of Ukrainian cereals, raising fears of the risk of a global food crisis.

The European Union (EU) is also seeking a solution for Ukrainian cereals. French President Emmanuel Macron, who holds the rotating presidency of the EU, said on Tuesday that he had proposed to Vladimir Putin on Saturday the adoption of a UN resolution which “would give a very clear framework” for the lifting of the blockade of the port of Odessa, first Ukrainian port.

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Ukrainian cereals: discussions around “secure corridors” on June 8

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov will travel to Turkey on June 8 to discuss the establishment of “secure corridors” for the transport of Ukrainian grain, his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Cavusoglu announced on Tuesday. “Lavrov will come to Turkey on June 8 with a military delegation to discuss, among other things, the establishment of secure corridors for the transport of cereals. This is the most important question”, indicated the minister who wants to “create a Corridor Observation Center in Istanbul”. He did not specify what form this observation could take or the exact role of Turkey.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday he is ready to work with Turkey on the free movement of goods in the Black Sea, including grain from Ukraine, during a telephone conversation with Turkish Head of State Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Sberbank assures that Swift’s exclusion will not affect it

The main Russian bank Sberbank said on Tuesday that its exclusion from the international financial system Swift, decided by the European Union, will only have a limited effect, the group having already been hit by other sanctions since the Russian offensive against Ukraine. “We are working normally – the main restrictions are already in force”, wrote in a press release the bank, which was already targeted by heavy American and British measures. “Swift’s exclusion does not change the situation for international regulations,” she said.

The Russians control part of Severodonetsk

Russian forces now control “part” of Severodonetsk, a city in eastern Ukraine that they have been shelling and trying to take for weeks, the region’s governor announced on Tuesday. “The situation is ultra-complicated. Part of Severodonetsk is controlled by the Russians”, indicated on Telegram Serguiï Gaïdaï, at the head of the Lugansk region. He said, however, that the Russians “cannot advance freely”, with Ukrainian fighters “still remaining” in the city.

First commercial ship leaves Mariupol for Russia

A first commercial ship, loaded with metal, left the Ukrainian port of Mariupol, conquered by Russian forces, to reach Rostov-on-the-Don in Russia, the pro-Russian separatist leader Denis Pushilin announced on Tuesday. “Today 2,500 tons of rolls of rolled sheet metal left the port of Mariupol, the boat headed for Rostov”, writes the leader of the pro-Russian separatists of Donetsk on his Telegram messenger.

“This transport node is very important for the Donbass”, emphasizes Denis Pouchiline. “It is a very important port on the Sea of ​​Azov and the only one where you can tranship all types of goods, including in winter,” he explains.

Orban welcomes the exemption on the embargo

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban welcomed on Tuesday the agreement of the 27 EU countries which provides an exemption for oil transported by pipeline, thus allowing his country to continue to receive cheap crude from Russia.

The nationalist leader had been blocking the European embargo project for several weeks, speaking of an “atomic bomb” launched on his economy. Finally, to lift Budapest’s veto, the heads of state and government meeting at a summit in Brussels on Monday limited the stoppage of imports to Russian oil transported by boat, i.e. two thirds of European purchases.

energy weapon

“The key point of course is oil. Europe will have to give up Russian oil. Because the very independence of Europeans from the Russian energy weapon is at stake,” Zelensky commented on Monday. evening in his daily address to his compatriots, even before the news from Brussels broke.

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This sixth package of European sanctions also includes the exclusion of three Russian banks from the Swift international financial system, including Sberbank, the country’s main establishment. Disruptions are beginning to be felt in the Russian economy, despite the impression given of resisting the sanctions. The price of spare parts for foreign cars has thus jumped by 30% or more.

Inflation, nearly 18% annually in April, is at its highest in 20 years. Signs like McDonald’s or Starbucks are withdrawing definitively, as is the car manufacturer Renault. From the airline Ural Airlines to the factories of Avtovaz, the country’s leading car producer, shut down for lack of spare parts, tens of thousands of people are on short-time work or on forced leave.

The food crisis on the menu Tuesday

European leaders also approved on Monday evening the granting of nine billion euros to the Ukrainian government to cover its immediate cash needs to keep its economy running. The two-day summit must also address on Tuesday the continent’s energy transition to do without Russian gas, and the food crisis linked to the war in Ukraine which threatens the African continent in particular.

Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a telephone conversation on Monday that Russia was ready to work with Turkey on the free movement of goods in the Black Sea, including “the export of grain from Ukrainian ports,” according to a Kremlin statement.

Ukraine and Western countries accuse Moscow of blocking Ukrainian Black Sea ports, which Russian officials deny. Russian forces are advancing in the east of the country. They confront the Ukrainian forces in the heart of Severodonetsk, which with Lyssytchansk is a key city in the parts of Donbass still under Ukrainian control.

The Russian army has been trying to encircle Severodonetsk and take control of it for several weeks, in an offensive that has intensified in recent days, in the face of which Volodymyr Zelensky admitted that the Ukrainian army was in difficulty. “The situation in the Donbass remains extremely difficult. The Russian army is trying to concentrate its forces there to put more and more pressure on our defenders,” President Zelensky said Monday evening.

Russian forces aim to control this mining basin, which pro-Russian separatist forces backed by Moscow took partial control in 2014. It was in this area that a French journalist, Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, who worked for the BFMTV channel.

The reality of war

He “was in Ukraine to show the reality of the war. On board a humanitarian bus, alongside civilians forced to flee to escape Russian bombs, he was fatally injured,” French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Twitter .

Ukrainian forces have nevertheless claimed to regain ground in the south, particularly in the region around Kherson, a city near Crimea which came under Russian control in early March. “The enemy has left the village of Mykolaivka, in the north of the Kherson region”, says a bulletin from the Ukrainian army published overnight from Monday to Tuesday, referring to the departure in “panic” of “demoralized” Russian soldiers “.

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