Fighting is escalating in the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, where Moscow today confirmed that pro-Russian separatists had taken control of the key location of Liman, which opens the way for the Russians to the major cities of Slovyansk and Kramatorsk.
At the diplomatic level, French President Emanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Soltz spoke at length by telephone with President Vladimir Putin, urging him to start “serious direct talks” with Ukrainian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. fighters who had been fortified at the Azofstal steel plant in Mariupol.
In a statement, the Russian Defense Ministry said this morning that “after joint actions by the militia units of the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Russian armed forces, the city of Lyman was completely liberated from the Ukrainian nationalists.”
The territorial defense of this “self-proclaimed” democracy by pro-Russian separatists had told the Telegram on Friday that it had “taken full control” of Liman, with the “support” of the Russian army.
President Volodymyr Zelensky admitted in a video that “the situation in this area of Donbas was very, very difficult.”
However, he estimated that “if the occupiers think that Lyman and Sheverodonetsk will be theirs, they are wrong. Donbass will be Ukrainian.”
“The army destroys everything”
In Severodonetsk, “the bombing continues (…) the army is simply destroying the city,” Lugansk regional governor Sergei Gaidai told the Telegram. According to him, Russian forces entered the outskirts of the city where they suffered “heavy losses”, while Ukrainian forces were trying to evacuate the Russians from a hotel.
But the governor says “Sheverodonetsk is not cut off” by Russian forces and separatists. Access to humanitarian aid continues to be made possible, he said.
The governor was responding to a police official from the pro-Russian separatist republic of Lugansk, quoted by Ria Novosti, who said on Friday that “the city of Severodonetsk is currently under siege” and that Ukrainian troops were trapped there.
The Ukrainian Defense Ministry added today in the Telegram that “(the enemy) carried out raids in the areas of Sheverodonetsk, Oskolonivka, Toskivka, in vain, suffered losses and retreated to positions previously held.”
According to Gaidai, the occupation of Sheverodonetsk would be “a strong victory” for the Russian forces as “their army did not have great victories and they have to feed their people with something”.
Demonstration of power in the Arctic
Meanwhile, as the Russian military escalated its offensive in eastern Ukraine, it staged a new demonstration in the Arctic on Saturday with a successful supersonic rocket launch.
The Zircon rocket was launched from the frigate Admiral Gorchkov in the Barents Sea, towards a target in the waters of the White Sea, in the Arctic, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense. The first official launch of this rocket took place in October 2020.
Following the failed offensive in Kyiv and Kharkiv (northeast) at the start of the Russian-launched war on 24 February, Russian forces are concentrating in eastern Ukraine, they say, to take full control of the mining basin of the N which was controlled in part by 2014 by pro-Russian separatists backed by Moscow.
“Genocide” in Donbass
In his daily videotaped message, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow on Thursday of “genocide” in Donbass, where Russian forces are carrying out “deportations” and “massacres of civilians.”
US President Joe Biden also used that expression.
For its part, Moscow justified its invasion of Ukraine by a “genocide” allegedly committed by the Ukrainians against the Russian-speaking population of Donbass.
As Ukraine faces an increasingly critical humanitarian situation, an Australian humanitarian worker was killed this week.
The Australian newspaper Mercury Newspaper announced today the death of Michael Charles O’Neill, 47, who was helping the injured in the front line, an information that was confirmed by the Australian Ministry of Foreign Affairs without giving further details.
On Saturday in Mariupol, a city in the south that the Russians pounded for three months before finally occupying last week, a first cargo ship entered the port, according to the official Russian news agency TASS, citing a spokesman for the pro-Russian port authority.
The Ukrainian Navy reacted to Facebook by calling the announcement “manipulative” because, according to the Navy, “while they continue to ignore the rules of international maritime law, Russian ships continue to block merchant navigation in the waters of the Black Sea and Azov.”
While Ukraine, a major agricultural power, can no longer export its grain due to the blockade of its ports, Putin assured Macron and Soltz that his country was “ready” to help “smoothly”. grain exports from Ukraine.
“Russia is ready to assist in finding options for the smooth export of grain, including Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports,” the Kremlin said in a statement issued after the telephone conversation.
According to Putin, the difficulties related to food deliveries were caused by “a wrong economic and financial policy of the western countries, as well as by the anti-Russian sanctions” imposed by these countries.
The Russian president said his country remained open to resuming dialogue with Kyiv, and that peace talks with Ukraine had been at a standstill since March, according to the same source.
The Russian president stressed the “dangerous nature (of the fact) that Ukraine continues to be flooded with Western weapons, warning of the dangers of further destabilizing the situation and worsening the humanitarian crisis.”