After 101 days of war, Russia claims to have fulfilled some of the objectives of the “special military operation” it launched to “denazify” Ukraine and protect its Russian-speaking population. “Victory will be ours,” however, retorted Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday in a video where he appeared in front of the presidential administration building in kyiv with several of his collaborators.
Ukraine claims to have pushed back Russian forces in Severodonetsk, a key city in the Donbass region where Moscow is concentrating its offensive in the hope of taking full control. After being defeated in front of kyiv, the Russian army is now concentrating its efforts in the Donbass, in eastern Ukraine, relentlessly pounding certain cities including Severodonetsk, the subject of a fierce battle for weeks. It is in this region that a long-term “war of attrition” is now being played out, warned NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
According to the Ukrainian presidency, fighting raged Friday morning in the city center. “The Russian invaders continue to bomb civilian infrastructure and the Ukrainian army in the areas of Severodonetsk, Borivsky and Lyssychansk,” she said.
But far from winning, the Russian forces are still unable to fully take control of this city, according to kyiv. The capture of this city would allow them to ensure their hold on the Donbass, a mining basin partially occupied by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
The Russian soldiers were even forced to retreat, said Serguiï Gaïdaï, governor of the Lugansk region, on Friday. “They didn’t fully capture it. And if before we had a difficult situation with around 70% (of the city) captured, now they’ve been pushed back 20%,” he said, despite a deluge of fire.
“They bombard our positions for hours, then they send a company of freshly mobilized soldiers, they die, then they understand that there are still hotbeds of resistance, and they start bombarding again. That’s what’s happening. to happen in the fourth month” of war, explained Mr. Gaïdaï.
Avoid repeating the same situation as in Mariupol
And like the Ukrainian president, he calls for heavy weapons to, he says, push back Russian artillery away from Ukrainian positions, and avoid what happened in Mariupol. This strategic port on the Sea of Azov (south-east) conquered on May 20 was devastated by the bombardments.
“During these hundred days (of war), the occupying forces have almost reduced Mariupol to ashes”, thus denounced Friday its mayor Vadym Boychenko. Result: “more than 22,000 civilians killed, 1,300 buildings destroyed and 47,000 people deported to Russia” or to territories under the control of pro-Russian separatists, he said.
Russian forces are also heavily bombarding the Donetsk region, including Sloviansk, some 80 km west of Severodonetsk. Residents of the region lack gas, water and electricity, according to kyiv.
Ukrainians worry about possible annexation of conquered regions
In the South, the Ukrainians are worried about a possible annexation of the regions conquered by the Russian forces, Moscow evoking referendums on the subject as of July. But according to the southern command of the Ukrainian armed forces, the Russians meet very strong resistance from the population.
“The occupiers are afraid of the growing resistance among the local population in the region of Kherson”, the first Ukrainian city of importance conquered at the start of the invasion by Russian forces, affirmed in the night from Friday to Saturday the southern command.
Since the invasion of Ukraine launched just a hundred days ago by Vladimir Putin, his army has tripled the portion of Ukrainian territory it controls: with the Crimean peninsula and the occupied territories of Donbass and southern Ukraine, Russia now controls nearly 125,000 km2, according to President Zelensky.
The Twenty-Seven approved a sixth package of sanctions
On the diplomatic front, the 27 EU countries painfully approved on Thursday a sixth package of sanctions against Moscow including an embargo, with exemptions, on oil purchases, which will be effective within six months. The text was published on Friday in the Official Journal and officially entered into force.
“European consumers will be the first to suffer from this decision (…) I do not exclude that there is a large deficit of petroleum products in the EU”, affirmed the Russian Deputy Prime Minister in charge of the ‘Energy, Alexander Novak. Concern is also growing over grain supplies, with the United Nations claiming to be negotiating with Moscow to allow their export.
“I am optimistic that something could give way,” said Amin Awad, UN coordinator for Ukraine, who said he hoped for a “breakthrough”.
kyiv didn’t appreciate Macron’s pleas not to ‘humiliate Russia’
In this complex balancing act of providing support to Ukraine without declaring war on Russia, France has somewhat tripped over the carpet. The President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, had called for “not to humiliate Russia”. A statement badly perceived in kyiv.
Calls to avoid humiliation of Russia can only humiliate France and every other country that would call for it. Because it is Russia that humiliates itself. We all better focus on how to put Russia in its place. This will bring peace and save lives.
— Dmytro Kuleba (@DmytroKuleba) June 4, 2022
“Calls to avoid humiliating Russia can only humiliate France or any other country. Because it is Russia humiliating itself. We all better focus on how to put Russia in its place This will bring peace and save lives,” tweeted Dmytro Kuleba, Ukraine’s Foreign Minister.
The UN is concerned about the risk of crisis in Africa
For its part, the UN is worried about the risks of crisis, particularly in Africa, which imports more than half of its cereals from Ukraine and Russia. Their price in Africa has already exceeded the levels reached during the Arab Spring crises in 2011 or during the food riots in 2008.
Worries brushed aside by Vladimir Putin. “There is no problem exporting grain from Ukraine,” he said in a television interview, referring to several ways to export it through Ukrainian ports, others under Russian control, or through the Central and Eastern Europe.
The current president of the African Union (AU) and Senegalese head of state Macky Sall said he was “reassured” on Friday after his meeting with the Russian president. “We leave here very reassured and very happy with our exchanges”, declared Mr. Sall to the journalists at the end of this meeting in Sotchi (southern Russia), adding that he found the Russian president “committed and aware that the crisis and the sanctions are creating serious problems for weak economies, such as African economies”.