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War in Ukraine: what to remember on the 93rd day of the Russian invasion

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On the 93rd day of the war in Ukraine, Russian forces are stepping up their offensive in Donbass, appearing close to completing the encirclement of a major city in this eastern region of the country while pro-Russian separatist forces claim the capture from the key locality of Lyman.

THE ESSENTIAL

While shelling has intensified in some areas, Russian forces are advancing in eastern Ukraine. On its Telegram account, the territorial defense staff of the self-proclaimed pro-Russian separatist “republic” of Donetsk said it had “taken complete control” of Lyman with the “support” of the Russian armed forces. Neither the Russian army nor the Ukrainian army immediately commented on this information, which AFP could not verify from an independent source.

Pro-Russian separatists claim Lyman capture

After their unsuccessful offensive on kyiv and Kharkiv at the start of the war, launched by Russia on February 24, Moscow’s forces are concentrating their forces in eastern Ukraine, with the stated objective of taking full control of the basin. mine in Donbass, which pro-Russian separatists have partially controlled since 2014.

The capture of Lyman would open the road to them towards the regional centers of Sloviansk, then Kramatorsk, while allowing them to approach a total encirclement of the agglomeration formed by the towns of Severodonetsk and Lyssytchansk, further to the east.

At least five civilians killed near Severodonetsk

At the same time, Russian forces continue to shell Severodonetsk, which the Ukrainian authorities have warned could suffer the same fate as Mariupol, a large port in the south-east devastated by weeks of siege. At least five civilians were killed in 24 hours in the region: four in Severodonetsk and another in Komychouvakha, 50 kilometers away, regional governor Serguiï Gaïdaï said on Friday.

“The people of Severodonetsk have forgotten what a ceasefire for at least half an hour is,” he wrote on Telegram. “The Russians are constantly shelling the residential areas”. The last real road to leave the agglomeration from Lysytchansk has become a battlefield in recent days, making it almost impossible for residents to leave, AFP noted.

Lack of ceasefire deprives residents of supplies

To reach the rest of Ukraine from these two cities or to seek supplies, there is only a dusty country road, which even tanks or military trucks equipped with giant tires have difficulty navigating.

“People are ready to take all the risks for water and food,” Oleksandr Kozyr, head of the main aid distribution center in Lysychansk, told AFP. “They are so depressed that they are no longer afraid. All they want is to find something to eat.”

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“We believe Russian forces have been able to capture most of northeast Severodonetsk, although fighting is still ongoing,” a senior Pentagon official told Washington.

A “genocide” is taking place in the Donbass according to Zelensky

The Ukrainian president on Thursday evening accused Moscow of carrying out a “genocide” in the Donbass. “The current offensive of the occupiers in the Donbass could empty the region of its inhabitants”, asserted Volodymyr Zelensky in his daily video message, accusing the Russians of seeking to “reduce to ashes” Severodonetsk and other cities of this old region mining. Russian forces are carrying out “deportations” and “mass killings of civilians” there, he said.

In April, the Ukrainian Parliament had already adopted a resolution describing the actions of the Russian army as “genocide”, and had urged all foreign countries and international organizations to do the same. US President Joe Biden has himself used this expression, while his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron refuses to do so.

For its part, Moscow justified its invasion of Ukraine launched on February 24 by a “genocide” that the Ukrainians would carry out against the Russian-speaking population of Donbass.

An Orthodox Schism

On Friday evening, the Moscow branch of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church severed its ties with Russia because of the position of Moscow Patriarch Kirill, who supports Vladimir Putin. At the end of a council, devoted to the Russian “aggression”, was pronounced “the full independence and autonomy of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church”, according to a press release, which specifies that the relations of the Church Ukraine with its Moscow leadership had been “complicated or non-existent” since the start of the conflict.

As for Kirill, “not only did he not condemn Russia’s military aggression, but he also found no words for the suffering Ukrainian people,” said a spokesman. This initiative is the second Orthodox schism in Ukraine in a few years. Part of the Ukrainian Church, represented by the kyiv Patriarchate, had already broken with Moscow in 2019 because of the Kremlin’s interference in the country.

On his Telegram account, Russian Orthodox Church spokesman Vladimir Legoida said: “Since the Russian Orthodox Church has not received an address from the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, we cannot react “. Ukraine is central to the Russian Orthodox Church, some of the most important monasteries of which are located in this country.

Strikes on Dnipro and Kharkiv

But the war also continues in the rest of Ukraine. Russian missiles on Friday targeted a military installation in the large city of Dnipro in central-eastern Ukraine on the Dnieper River, according to local authorities. “We deplore a dozen dead and between 30 and 35 wounded,” Guennadi Korban, head of the city’s defense, told a local channel, suggesting that the victims were all soldiers.

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In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second city located 50 km from the Russian border in the east of the country, the air alert sirens sounded again at dawn on Friday. Bombing the day before left nine dead and 19 injured, all civilians, according to the Ukrainian president, while the city had been trying since mid-May to return to normal.

Ukrainian authorities demand more weapons from Westerners

In this context, the Ukrainian authorities again demanded from the West more weapons on Friday: “Some partners avoid giving the necessary weapons for fear of escalation. Escalation, really? Russia already uses the heaviest non-nuclear weapons , burn people alive. Maybe it’s time (…) to give us (multiple rocket launchers) MLRS?”, tweeted Mykhailo Podoliak, adviser to the Ukrainian presidency.

No negotiated solution is in sight. Moscow on Thursday rejected an Italian peace plan which provided, under UN guarantee, for a ceasefire and the withdrawal of troops, the entry of Ukraine into the EU but not into NATO, and autonomous status within Ukraine for Donbass and Crimea.

A railway bridge set up by Germany

While Ukraine, a major agricultural power, can no longer export its cereals due to the blocking of its ports, President Vladimir Putin said on Thursday that he was ready to help “overcome the food crisis” that this entails – but on condition that the draconian Western sanctions against Moscow are lifted beforehand, which immediately earned him accusations of blackmail.

Russia has said it is aiming for 50 million tonnes of grain exports in the coming season, against 37 million expected for the current season which ends at the end of June. To help kyiv bypass the Russian blockade, Germany has set up a “railway bridge” with Ukraine, said the next head of US forces in Europe, General Chris Cavoli.

Russia consolidates its hold in Zaporizhia and Kherson

In southern Ukraine, Russia is busy consolidating its hold on the territories conquered for three months. In particular, it announced that it was going to allow residents of the Zaporijjia and Kherson regions to apply for a Russian passport via “a simplified procedure”.

Ukraine has denounced a “forced” granting of Russian nationality demonstrating Moscow’s desire to carry out a pure and simple annexation of these territories.

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