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War in Ukraine: what to remember from the 99th day of the Russian invasion

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On the 99th day of a war that could last “many months”, warns Washington, the Russian army tightened its hold on Thursday on the strategic city of Severodonetsk, in Donbass in eastern Ukraine. Now “80% of the city is occupied” by Russian forces and street fighting is raging, said the governor of the Lugansk region. Europe 1 takes stock of the evolution of the situation.

THE ESSENTIAL

A slow but devastating steamroller. Russian forces continue to advance Thursday around the city of Severodonetsk, strategic key to the conquest of Donbass, in eastern Ukraine. According to kyiv, its forces are notably entrenched there in an industrial zone bombarded by the Russians, as at the very end of the long siege of the strategic city of Mariupol (southeast), largely destroyed and conquered by Moscow in May. Ukrainian leaders also accuse Russia of wanting to make Severodonetsk a “new Mariupol”.

Washington sanctions Putin financier and superyacht broker for oligarchs

The United States announced Thursday a new series of sanctions to push Vladimir Putin to give up the war in Ukraine, targeting in particular his close friend and “financier” Sergei Pavlovich Roldougin and a brokerage company in superyachts for Russian oligarchs.

The US Treasury, State Department and Commerce Department are targeting a whole host of new oligarchs or members of Moscow’s “elite”, including Russian diplomatic spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. Several yachts regularly used, according to Washington, by the Russian president, are also on the American blacklist, including “Graceful”, “Olympia”, “Shellest” and “Nega”.

20% of the occupied territory, estimates Zelensky

Russian forces currently control “about 20%” of Ukrainian territory, or nearly 125,000 km2, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday in an address to the Luxembourg Parliament. “Today, about 20% of our territory is under the control of the occupiers, (i.e.) nearly 125,000 km2, it is much more than the territory of all the Benelux countries”, indicated Volodymyr Zelensky, in a message whose the Ukrainian presidency sent journalists the original version. By comparison, Russian forces already controlled, before the invasion of Ukraine on February 24, “more than 43,000 km2”, he added.

80% of the city of Severodonetsk occupied

In Severodonetsk, the administrative capital of the Lugansk region, now “80% of the city is occupied” by Russian forces and street fighting is raging, said the governor of the Lugansk region, Serguiï Gaïdaï, in the night from Wednesday to Thursday. “The most difficult situation is in the Lugansk region, where the enemy is trying to dislodge our troops from their positions,” according to the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian armed forces, Valeri Zaluzhny, quoted in an army statement published in Wednesday night through Thursday.

“The enemy has an operational advantage in terms of artillery,” he conceded in a telephone conversation Wednesday with the French chief of staff of the armies, General Thierry Burkhard, according to kyiv. “This raises the question of the fastest possible transition of our units to NATO-type weapons. This would save lives,” argued the Ukrainian general, who is expecting deliveries of missile launcher systems more powerful forces promised by US President Joe Biden, capable of changing the military balance of power on the ground. The Donetsk region is not spared by Moscow, notably Sloviansk, some 80 km west of Severodonetsk.

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“We are losing 60 to 100 Ukrainian soldiers a day”

More than three months after the start of the war in Ukraine, in the suburbs of the city of Donetsk, pro-Russian separatists said on Wednesday they had cut off one of the two supply routes to the nearby town of Avdiivka, controlled by the Ukrainian forces. These lose up to 100 soldiers every day, assured the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky to the American media Newsmax in an interview published on Wednesday. “The situation in the east is really difficult (…) We are losing 60 to 100 soldiers a day, killed in action, and some 500 are wounded”, detailed the 44-year-old leader.

In the south, the Ukrainians are worried about a possible annexation of the regions conquered by the Russian forces, Moscow evoking referendums as early as July with a view to an annexation.

Unblock Ukrainian Black Sea ports

Westerners are also trying to unblock the Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea, in particular that of Odessa (south), the main exit port for the country’s agricultural production, to relaunch grain exports, of which Ukraine is one of the major global producers.

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At least 20 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain cannot be exported due to a Russian blockade, raising the risk of a global food crisis. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is expected to discuss establishing “safe corridors” for grain transport during a visit to Turkey on June 8, according to Ankara.

“Working even under the bombs”

In the suburbs of kyiv, the Tsar-Khlib factory, despite the war, has never stopped supplying the capital with bread. With a small fraction of its 800 employees, twenty of whom are permanently based in the basement, the factory reduced its operations but continued to operate, producing 16 tonnes of fresh bread per day compared to 100 before the war. When the anti-aircraft sirens sound, the workers go to the cellar. The hot loaves then pile up when they come out of the oven. The inhabitants “thank us for having continued to work even under the bombs”, welcomes the director of the Khlibni Investytsiï group, Oleksandr Tarenenko.

Denmark in favor of joining EU defense policy

After pushing Finland and Sweden to apply for membership in NATO, the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to have other geostrategic effects: the Danes thus voted overwhelmingly “yes” on Wednesday in the referendum on an entry of their country in the European Union’s defense policy, after refusing to do so for three decades.

The Ukrainian football team also beat Scotland (3-1) on Wednesday evening in the play-off match for the 2022 World Cup, allowing the inhabitants to briefly forget the daily life of the war. Ukraine will get their ticket to Qatar if they beat Wales on Sunday.

Pelé’s letter to Putin

Brazilian soccer legend Pelé called on Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday evening to “stop the invasion” of Ukraine, in a letter posted on Instagram ahead of the Ukraine-Scotland match. “I want to use today’s match as an opportunity to make a request: stop the invasion. There is absolutely nothing that justifies such violence,” wrote ‘King’ Pele in the letter to Vladimir Poutine.

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