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War in Ukraine: what to remember on the 103rd day of the Russian invasion

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On the 103rd day of the Russian invasion, the battle is still raging on Monday in Severodonetsk, a key city in eastern Ukraine under intense Russian fire where the Ukrainian president recognizes a “difficult” situation, while Moscow again warned Westerners in the event of long-range arms deliveries. Europe 1 takes stock of the situation.

THE ESSENTIAL

After advances, the situation “worsened” on Monday for the Ukrainian army in Severodonetsk, a key city in eastern Ukraine, under heavy fire from Russian forces, shortly after the move to the front of the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. Ukrainian forces are “holding out” in Severodonetsk, but the Russians are “more numerous and more powerful there”, so the situation is “difficult” on the eastern front, he told reporters in kyiv. A counter-attack nevertheless made it possible to retake half of this industrial center.

“Very fierce” fighting in Severodonetsk

“The fighting is very fierce in Severodonetsk. Our defenders managed to counterattack and liberate half of the city, but the situation has worsened for us,” said Sergiï Gaïdaï, governor of the Lugansk region, on the Ukrainian television 1+1. According to him, the bombardments have further intensified on Severodonetsk and Lyssytchansk, a neighboring city located on “the heights” and strategic to “hold the line of defense” where President Zelensky visited his troops on Sunday. The Russians are “destroying everything with their usual scorched earth tactic” so that “there is nothing left to defend,” the governor charged.

This industrial center is the largest settlement still in Ukrainian hands in the Lugansk region, where Russian soldiers have advanced in recent weeks after withdrawing or being driven from the north of the country and around kyiv.

The city’s mayor, Oleksandre Striouk, for his part told the UNIAN news agency that “the situation was changing every hour” and that “intense street fighting” was taking place, as well as a “duel artillery”. According to Serguiï Gaïdaï, the bombardments have further intensified on Severodonetsk and Lyssytchansk, a neighboring locality located on “the heights” and strategic to “hold the line of defense”.

The Russians are “destroying everything with their usual scorched earth tactic” so that “there is nothing left to defend,” the governor charged. Severodonetsk is the largest settlement still in Ukrainian hands in the Lugansk region, where Russian soldiers have advanced in recent weeks.

Seven attacks repelled in the east

After being initially repelled by a Russian offensive on Severodonetsk, the Ukrainians gradually regained ground there. For Moscow, getting its hands on the city would prove decisive for full control of the Donbass coalfield, already partly held by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

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Its armed forces have continued their offensive in the past 24 hours on many fronts in the east, where “seven attacks (…) have been repelled” in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions, according to kyiv. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, its air force notably destroyed three artillery ammunition depots and a fuel depot near the village of Kodema, in the Donetsk region.

Lavrov prevented from traveling to Serbia

In Moscow, the head of Russian diplomacy castigated on Monday the “scandalous” closure by three European countries of their airspace to the plane which was to take him to Serbia. “The inconceivable has happened,” Lavrov said during an urgently called online press conference. “We have deprived a sovereign state of its right to exercise its foreign policy,” he added, denouncing this “scandalous” measure.

Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro, all three NATO members, have closed their airspace to Sergei Lavrov’s plane which was due to fly to Serbia for a two-day visit, citing sanctions imposed by Brussels to Russia after the launch of its offensive in Ukraine on February 24.

Zelensky at the bedside of his troops

For his part, President Zelensky visited his troops on Sunday near Bakhmout (Donetsk region) and Lyssytchansk (that of Lugansk) on Sunday. On images released by the presidency, we can see the head of state in military-style attire talking with soldiers inside buildings. “We brought something to the army. I will not talk about it in detail,” said Volodymyr Zelensky. The Head of State also went to Zaporijjia, in the south of the country. There he met residents of Mariupol who had managed to flee the Russian bombardments.

A “very critical” situation in the Kherson region

Still in the south, the situation is “critical” in the Kherson region, in the “absence of mobile and internet networks, food products, medicine and cash”, according to the Ukrainian authorities. “Three inhabitants (were) killed” in the seaside resort of Lazourné where the Russians mined the coast.

Russia destroys factory near Kharkiv

The Kharkiv region (north-east), where 10 civilians were killed in 24 hours, is also the target of intense bombardments. The Russian army claimed to have “destroyed there with high-precision, long-range aerial missiles” a factory which dealt with the repair of Ukrainian armored vehicles near Lozova. To support its offensive, “the enemy is intensively renewing” road infrastructure and “setting up floating railway bridges over rivers” around Kharkiv, said the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.

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Eventually, however, Ukrainian resistance in Severodonetsk will focus Russian attention on the Luhansk region and “thus leave vulnerabilities in Russian defensive efforts in the Kharkiv region and along the southern axis”, it said on Sunday. the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW).

Vladimir Putin’s warning

If the fighting is concentrated in the south and east, “kyiv remains the main objective of the Russian occupier”, Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Malyar assured local media on Sunday, also asking for “constant support”. of the West. The Ukrainian capital was indeed hit by several Russian strikes on Sunday morning, for the first time since the end of April. Moscow says it targeted a freight car repair workshop in the south-east of kyiv, 10 km from the city center, and destroyed there armored vehicles supplied to Ukraine by Eastern European countries.

This was denied by Ukrainian officials and witnesses on the spot. “This is another example of Russian-made falsification to justify this brutal war against Ukraine,” Sergii Leshchenko, deputy director of the railway company’s supervisory board, told AFP. In the evening, AFP was able to see the destruction of several hangars and a large crater caused by a shell.

On Rossiya-1 television, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened further strikes on “sites which we have not targeted so far”, if the West supplies long-range missiles to Ukraine, which which he says aims to “prolong the conflict”.

London continues to deliver arms

This warning did not prevent London from announcing Monday the delivery to kyiv of rocket launchers with a range of 80 kilometers (M270 MLRS), coming in addition to the American Himars, rocket launchers mounted on light armored vehicles, the same scope, promised last week by Washington. Volodymyr Zelensky said on Twitter that he spoke with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday, including “a new enhanced package” of British military assistance.

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