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War in Ukraine: what to remember from the 95th day of the Russian invasion

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On the 95th day of the Russian invasion, fierce fighting raged for control of the Donbass region where Russian forces threatened the large city of Severodonetsk, relentlessly shelled after the conquest – according to Moscow – of the locality of Lyman. Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz have asked Vladimir Putin to start “serious direct negotiations” with Volodymyr Zelensky.

THE ESSENTIAL

Heavy fighting rages in eastern Ukraine for control of the Donbass region where Russian forces threaten the large city of Severodonetsk, relentlessly pounded, after the conquest – according to Moscow – of the key locality of Lyman. More than three months after the start of the war launched by Moscow on February 24, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz asked Russian President Vladimir Putin – during a telephone interview – to start “negotiations direct talks” with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. They also demanded the release of the 2,500 Ukrainian fighters who had taken refuge in the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol (south-east) and who surrendered to the Russian forces.

The Russian president assured for his part that Russia remained “open to a resumption of dialogue” with kyiv to resolve the armed conflict, while peace negotiations with Ukraine have been at a standstill since March, according to the Kremlin. “Russia has used all its means to seize Severodonetsk or to prevent any communication between the region and Ukraine,” said Sergii Gaïdaï, the governor of the Lugansk region, on his Telegram account on Saturday evening. “Next week will be very tough”, he admitted, considering however that the Russian forces “will not be able to achieve everything they plan in the near future”.

“The Russians have brought a lot of means to take the city by storm, but cannot do it yet,” assured the mayor of Severodonetsk, Olexander Stryuk. But “we think the city will resist,” he added. He warned of the worsening health situation in this city of 100,000 inhabitants before the war. The “constant bombardments” greatly complicate the supply – especially of drinking water – of the city, which has been without electricity for more than two weeks, he wrote on his Telegram account on Saturday evening. The activity of the city’s “humanitarian aid center” has been suspended, he said.

Zelensky travels to the East for the first time

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled on Sunday for the first time since the Russian invasion in the east of the country, in the Kharkiv region, from where Moscow has withdrawn its troops in recent weeks to concentrate them on other foreheads. “2,229 houses destroyed in Kharkiv and the region. We will restore, rebuild and bring life back. In Kharkiv and all other towns and villages where evil has come,” he said on Telegram, accompanying his message of a video of his visit. The images show him inspecting the destruction and destroyed vehicles on the side of the road, dressed in a khaki outfit and a bulletproof vest, accompanied by collaborators and armed soldiers.

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“In this war, the occupiers are trying to achieve any outcome. But they must have understood for a long time that we will defend our land to the end. They have no chance. We will fight and we will win,” again indicated Volodymyr Zelensky. Bombarded almost daily since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24, Kharkiv, the country’s second city, has been experiencing a respite for a few weeks with the departure of Russian troops in other directions to the East and South. The eastern part of the city nevertheless remains sometimes targeted.

Meanwhile, Russian forces, which have withdrawn from the Kharkiv region and redeployed south, have advanced towards the key cities of Severodonetsk, relentlessly shelled, and Lyssychansk, its twin city, in the Donbass. The situation in Lyssytchansk has “greatly worsened”, assured Sunday on Telegram Serguiï Gaïdaï, the governor of the region of Lugansk, which with that of Donetsk forms the Donbass. “A Russian shell fell on an apartment building, a girl died on the spot and four people were hospitalized,” he said.

In Severodonetsk, “the enemy carried out assault operations”, according to a report by the General Staff of the Ukrainian army. According to Governor Gaïdaï, the assault continues in the city with street fighting.

“Heavy Losses”

“The (Russian) army is simply destroying the city,” Serguii Gaïdaï had previously said. According to him, the Russian army entered the outskirts of the city where it suffered “heavy losses”, while the Ukrainian forces tried to dislodge the Russians from a hotel. He was responding to a police official from the pro-Russian separatist republic of Lugansk, quoted by the Ria Novosti agency, who said on Friday that “the city of Severodonetsk is currently surrounded” and that Ukrainian troops were trapped there.

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The leader of the Russian republic of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov claimed for his part on Saturday evening on Telegram that “Severodonetsk is under our total control (…) The city has been liberated”. A little further west, the takeover of the key locality of Lyman – which opens the way to the major cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, in the Donbass – was confirmed on Saturday by the Russian Ministry of Defense.

The territorial defense of this republic “self-proclaimed” by the pro-Russian separatists had indicated on Friday on Telegram to have “taken complete control” of Lyman, with “the support” of the Russian army. President Zelensky acknowledged that “the situation in this region of Donbass (was) very, very difficult”, with intensive artillery and missile strikes. But he had estimated that “if the occupiers think that Lyman and Severodonetsk will be theirs, they are mistaken. The Donbass will be Ukrainian”.

After the unsuccessful offensive on kyiv and Kharkiv (northeast) at the start of the war, Russian forces concentrated in eastern Ukraine, with the stated objective of completely seizing the partially controlled Donbass since 2014 by pro-Russian separatists backed by Moscow.

Countering the Flood

While Ukraine, a major agricultural power, can no longer export its cereals due to the blocking of its ports, Vladimir Putin assured, during his conversation with Messrs. Macron and Scholz, that his country was “ready” to help an export “unfettered” grain from Ukraine. “Russia is ready to help find options for unhindered export of grain, including Ukrainian grain from ports on the Black Sea,” said a Kremlin statement released after the telephone conversation.

According to Vladimir Putin, the difficulties related to food deliveries were caused by “a wrong economic and financial policy of Western countries, as well as anti-Russian sanctions” imposed by these countries.

In Brussels, a meeting of EU officials is scheduled for Sunday to discuss a solution to unblocking the EU’s 6th sanctions package against Russia, the flagship measure of which is an oil embargo by the end of the month. ‘year. These new sanctions are currently blocked by Hungary, a landlocked country without access to the sea and dependent on the oil sent from Russia by the Druzhba pipeline, which supplies it with 65% of its consumption.

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