© Reuters. Smoke billows over a 2S1 Gvozdika self-propelled howitzer of pro-Russian forces that launched a paper bomb towards Sievierodonetsk to distribute information materials from combat positions in the Luhansk region, Ukraine, May 24, 2022. Photo: Reuters
By Max Hunder and Conor Humphreys
Kyiv (Reuters) – Russian forces intensified their assault on the Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk after claiming to have captured the nearby Lyman railway junction, as Kyiv cemented its claim to long-range weapons from the West.
Slow and strong Russian gains over the past few days in the Donbass of eastern Ukraine, which includes the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, indicate a slight shift in momentum in the war, now in its fourth month.
The invading forces seemed ready to capture the entire Luhansk region, one of the more modest war objectives set by the Kremlin after halting its assault on the capital, Kyiv, in the face of Ukrainian resistance.
The Russian Defense Ministry said on Saturday that its forces and allied separatist forces are in full control of Lyman, the site of a railway junction west of the Seversky Donetsk River in Donetsk.
However, Deputy Defense Minister of Ukraine Hanna Maliar said that the battle for Lyman continues, ZN.ua website reported.
Severodonetsk was heavily attacked by the Russians, about 60 km from Lyman on the eastern side of the river and the largest city in Donbass is still under the control of Ukraine.
And the Ukrainian police posted on social media, “Severodonetsk is constantly under enemy fire.”
Russian artillery also bombed the Lyseshansk-Bakhmut road, which Russia must take to stop the pincer movement and encircle the Ukrainian forces.
“There was great devastation in Lysechansk,” police said.
On Friday, the governor of Luhansk said that Russian forces had already entered into a march to Severodonetsk. Governor Serhi Gaidai said Ukrainian forces may have to withdraw from the city to avoid capturing it. It was not clear if they had started to retreat on Saturday.
Ukrainian presidential advisor and peace negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak has reiterated the call for US-made long-range multiple rocket launchers. US officials told Reuters that such schemes are being actively explored, with a decision likely to be made in the coming days.
“It is difficult to fight when you are under attack from a distance of 70 kilometers and you have nothing to resist. Ukraine can take Russia back behind the Iron Curtain, but for this we need effective weapons “
President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed hope that Ukraine’s allies will provide the weapons they need in a late-night video address, adding that he expects “good news” this week.
destroy the building
Ukrainian forces in Donbass said in a short Facebook post (NASDAQ:) that they had been on the defensive all day, repelling seven Russian attacks and destroying a tank.
Governor Gaidai said about 90% of buildings in Severodonetsk were damaged, with the latest bombing destroying 14 high-rises.
Reuters was not able to independently verify these allegations.
The military situation in Donbass was very complex, Zelensky said, adding that defenses were parked in a number of places, including Severodonetsk and Lysechhansk.
“The situation is incredibly difficult there. I am grateful to everyone who withstood this attack.”
Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence report that if Russia were to gain control of these areas, the Kremlin would likely consider them a “fundamental political achievement” to justify its invasion of the Russian people.
In a sign of frustration with Western differences over the war, Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stevanishina said NATO had proven unable to come up with a unified response.
“We must speak clearly about the catastrophic consequences for the future of all of Europe if Ukraine is defeated,” she said on Facebook.
Zelensky said in a television interview that he believed Russia would agree to talks if Ukraine could regain all the territory lost since the invasion began on February 24.
However, Zelensky has dismissed the idea of using force to reclaim all the territory Ukraine has lost to Russia since 2014, including the southern Crimea, which Moscow annexed earlier this year.
“I don’t think we can reclaim all our territory by military means. If we choose to do that, we will lose hundreds of thousands of people,” he added.
Russia says it is carrying out a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of nationalists who threaten Russian speakers there. Ukraine and Western countries say Russia’s allegations are a false excuse to launch a war of aggression.
Thousands of people were killed, many of them civilians, and tens of millions fled their homes, either to safer areas of Ukraine or to other countries.
Authorities in Kharkiv, the second largest city, said six civilians were wounded in the latest Russian bombing.
Guns and pills
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in a phone call with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday pushed forward diplomatic efforts to find a solution to a conflict with repercussions beyond Ukraine’s borders.
France said they urged him to lift the Russian blockade of the port of Odessa to allow Ukraine’s grain exports. The Kremlin said Putin told them that Moscow was ready to discuss ways to allow Ukraine to resume grain shipments from Black Sea ports.
Ukraine is a major exporter of grain and a freeze on its exports threatens to cause food shortages in a number of countries, including Africa.