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War in Ukraine: what to remember from the 104th day of the Russian invasion

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On the 104th day of conflict in Ukraine, the battle continues to rage for control of Severodonetsk, a key city in eastern Ukraine whose residential areas Moscow claims to have “liberated”. Russia is also accused of “blackmail” over Ukrainian wheat exports. Europe 1 takes stock of the evolution of the situation.

THE ESSENTIAL

The conflict in Ukraine is entering its 104th day. Fighting continues on Tuesday for control of Severodonetsk, a key city in eastern Ukraine whose residential areas Moscow claims to have “liberated”, while Russia is accused of “blackmail” over Ukrainian wheat exports. “The residential areas of Severodonetsk have been completely liberated,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said in a rare televised briefing, adding that “the takeover of its industrial zone and neighboring localities continues”.

The President of the French Senate will “soon” visit Ukraine

The President of the French Senate Gérard Larcher (right-wing opposition) will go “soon” to kyiv, at the invitation of the President of the Rada (Ukrainian parliament) Rouslan Stefantchouk, he announced Tuesday at a press conference spouse in Paris. Mr. Larcher specified that he would “naturally” report on this visit to the President of the Republic Emmanuel Macron “because there are times when France must speak with one voice”.

Continued fighting in Severodonetsk

“The enemy is currently continuing its assault on Severodonetsk, the fighting is continuing,” said Sergiï Gaïdaï, governor of the Lugansk region, who last week reported pockets of resistance in the industrial zones of this region. city ​​known for its chemical industry.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed on Monday evening that Ukrainian fighters were “holding” their positions and engaged in intense street fighting” in Severodonetsk. Ukrainian sources, however, stressed on Monday that the Russians had an overwhelming advantage in terms of artillery equipment.

Severodonetsk is, with its neighboring city Lyssytchansk, the last agglomeration still under Russian control in Lugansk. Its capture would open the road to Kramatorsk, a large city in the Donetsk region, to the Russians. The Donetsk and Lugansk regions form the Donbass basin, partially under the control of pro-Russian separatists since 2014, and which Moscow is now seeking to take full control of.

Lavrov in Turkey to discuss maritime corridors

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov arrived in Turkey on Tuesday evening to discuss the establishment of maritime corridors to facilitate grain exports in the Black Sea, noted an AFP photographer.

Mr. Lavrov is due to meet the head of Turkish diplomacy, Mevlüt Cavusoglu, on Wednesday. At the heart of the negotiations, the possibility for Ukraine, a major player in the world cereals market, to export its crops currently blocked in its ports.

Arrest warrant issued for Russian writer Dmitry Glukhovski

Russian justice placed science fiction writer Dmitry Glukhovski on its wanted list on Tuesday, who faces up to 10 years in prison for criticizing the Russian army after the offensive launched in Ukraine. On Telegram messaging, the 42-year-old writer explained that he was accused “of having discredited the Russian armed forces” in a message posted on Instagram and of having accused Vladimir Putin of being responsible for the conflict.

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Russian general dies in Donbass

Witness to the intensity of the fighting, the leader of the pro-Russian separatists Denis Pushilin confirmed on Tuesday the death of a Russian general in this region, reported on Sunday by a Russian war correspondent. In a message posted on Telegram, he claimed that General Roman Kutuzov had “shown by example how to serve the fatherland”.

Several senior Russian officers have died since the start of the invasion of Ukraine on February 24. But their exact number is unverifiable, the Russian authorities rarely communicating on their losses.

The Russians occupy a large nuclear power plant in the south

The battle is also continuing in southern Ukraine, where kyiv is trying to retake part of the territory occupied by the Russians in the regions of Kherson and Zaporizhia. The Ukrainian military claimed to have carried out strikes against Russian encampments near Kherson and ammunition depots near the city of Mykolaiv.

In the Zaporijjia region, the Russians notably occupied the large eponymous nuclear power station, which supplied 20% of Ukraine’s electricity before the war. While the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency Rafael Grossi tweeted on Monday that the IAEA was preparing an expert mission to the plant, the Ukrainian operator Energoatom said on Tuesday that it was opposed to such a visit as long as kyiv would not regain control of it. A visit under Russian control would come to “legitimize the presence of the occupants and approve their actions”, estimated Energoatom on Telegram.

Several Russian officials have indicated in recent weeks that they want to occupy these regions of southern Ukraine on a lasting basis. A close Kremlin spoke of a referendum on annexation to Russia which could take place as early as July.

The battle for wheat resources

The other major battle, an economic one, is that of the wheat resources of the cereal superpower that is Ukraine. European Council President Charles Michel stressed in a tweet Monday that the EU has “no sanctions against the Russian agricultural sector”, and accused Moscow of using the supplies as a “stealth missile against developing countries”.

US Foreign Minister Antony Blinken accused Moscow of “blackmailing” the lifting of international sanctions by blocking wheat exports from Ukraine. He also considered “credible” the reports that Russia “steals” tons of grain, “to sell them for its own profit”, with its naval blockade of Ukrainian ports, which prevents grain exports and raises fears of crises. food, especially in Africa.

Are Russian Freighters Carrying ‘Stolen Ukrainian Grain’?

According to New York Times, Washington warned 14 countries, mainly in Africa, in mid-May that Russian cargo ships were transporting “stolen Ukrainian cereals”. Antony Blinken referred to this article from the American daily, without however directly confirming the alert addressed to African countries.

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The Ukrainian ambassador in Ankara had accused Russia on Friday of “stealing” and exporting Ukrainian cereals, in particular to Turkey. “It is important for us to be ready to export our cereals. Russia says that the food shortage is incumbent on Ukraine… This is false,” President Zelensky insisted on Monday. The quantity of cereals intended for export and blocked in Ukraine by the Russians could triple by “by the fall” to reach 75 million tonnes, according to him.

The need for shipping lanes

“We need maritime corridors and we are discussing this with Turkey and the United Kingdom” as well as with the UN, continued the Ukrainian president. kyiv is also discussing this subject with Poland and the Baltic States to export small volumes by rail.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was expected in Turkey on Tuesday, with a military delegation, to discuss the establishment of “secure corridors” for the transport of Ukrainian cereals. Even if Moscow rejects all responsibility for this grain crisis, which it believes is due solely to Western sanctions.

Lavrov forced to cancel trip to Serbia

The head of Russian diplomacy, on the other hand, was forced to cancel a visit to Belgrade, scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. Three European countries have indeed closed their airspace to his plane, a measure denounced as “scandalous” by the Kremlin. Many analysts saw it as an “elegant” way out of a delicate situation for Belgrade, in a difficult balance between Russia and the European Union, with which it is negotiating membership.

Moscow’s warning against arms deliveries

Sergey Lavrov also warned Western countries on Monday against delivering long-range rocket launchers to kyiv. This did not prevent London from announcing the delivery of M270 MLRS rocket launchers with a range of 80 kilometers, in addition to Himars of the same range promised last week by Washington.

Military experts point out that this range is slightly greater than that of similar Russian systems, which would allow Ukrainian forces to strike enemy artillery from out of reach. But it is not known from when the Ukrainians will be able to use these new weapons.

Meanwhile, in kyiv, Ukrainians flock to observe helmets, food rations and missiles recovered following the withdrawal of the Russian army from occupied areas and displayed in an exhibition called “Ukraine – Crucifixion”. “Here you can see and touch the war with your fingertips,” Commissioner Yuri Savtchouk told AFP. “That’s also the goal: to shock people so that they realize what’s going on.”

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