Russians control 80% of key Ukrainian city and cut off escape routes

Shrapnel marks on a house damaged by Russian night shelling in the town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Monday, June 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

Shrapnel marks on a house damaged by Russian night shelling in the town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region, Ukraine, Monday, June 13, 2022. (AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky)

PA

Russian troops control about 80% of the disputed eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk and have destroyed all three bridges leading from it, but Ukrainian authorities are still trying to evacuate the wounded, it said on Tuesday. a regional manager.

Serhiy Haidai, governor of the eastern Luhansk region, acknowledged that a mass evacuation of civilians from Sievierodonetsk is now “simply not possible” due to the incessant shelling and fighting. Ukrainian forces were pushed back to the industrial outskirts of the city because of “the scorched earth method and heavy artillery the Russians are using”, he said.

“There is still a possibility of evacuation of the wounded, communication with the Ukrainian army and local residents,” he told The Associated Press by telephone, adding that Russian forces have not yet completely blocked the strategic city.

About 12,000 people remain in Sievierodonetsk, out of a pre-war population of 100,000. More than 500 civilians have taken refuge in the city’s Azot chemical plant, which is being relentlessly shelled by the Russians, according to Haidai.

A total of 70 civilians were evacuated from the Luhansk region over the past day, the governor said.

A Russian general, meanwhile, said a humanitarian corridor will be opened on Wednesday to evacuate civilians from the Azot plant. Col-Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said the evacuees would be taken to the town of Svatovo, 60 kilometers (35 miles) north in territory under the control of Russian and separatist forces.

He said the plan was drawn up after Ukraine requested an evacuation corridor leading to territory it controls.

Mizintsev, head of the National Defense Management Center, is accused by Ukraine of human rights abuses while commanding troops during the long siege of Mariupol, Ukraine’s key sea port of Azov which was taken over by the Russians.

In recent weeks, Russian forces have been pushing to seize the Donbass industrial zone in eastern Ukraine, which borders Russia and is made up of Lugansk and Donetsk regions.

“The situation is difficult,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a press conference with Danish media on Tuesday. “Our task is to fight back.”

As the conflict enters its fourth month, the Battle of Donbass could dictate the course of the war.

If Russia wins, Ukraine will not only lose land, but perhaps most of its most capable military forces, paving the way for Moscow to seize more territory and dictate its terms in Kyiv. .

A Russian failure, however, could lay the groundwork for a Ukrainian counteroffensive – and possible political upheaval for the Kremlin.

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, one of the aid organizations providing food to civilians in the Donbass, said fighting in recent weeks has made regular food distributions impossible. Now, he said, the remaining civilians in Sievierodonetsk “are almost completely cut off from the aid supply after the last bridge was destroyed.”

Reports of night shelling also came from other Ukrainian regions, with five people injured in the northeastern region of Kharkiv. According to an intelligence update released by the British Ministry of Defense on Tuesday, Russian forces appear to have made small advances in the Kharkiv sector for the first time in several weeks.

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MORE RUSSIAN-UKRAINE WAR STORIES:

— Ukrainians use humor to deal with the trauma of war

– The bucolic forest of Ukraine is the site of exhumation of mass graves

— Russia cuts gas flows to Europe via pipeline

— Pope denounces Russian “cruelty” and praises Ukrainian “heroism”

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OTHER DEVELOPMENTS:

The Kremlin has said Russia would be ready to consider an appeal from the UK over the fate of two Britons sentenced to death for fighting for Ukraine.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said neither Moscow nor the pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine who handed down the sentence had heard from London on the matter.

“You have to go…to the authorities of the country whose court issued the verdict, and it’s not the Russian Federation,” Peskov said. “But, of course, everything will depend on the calls from London. And I’m sure the Russian side will be ready to listen.

Britons Aiden Aslin and Sean Pinner, along with Moroccan national Brahim Saadoun, were sentenced to death last week for allegedly fighting as mercenaries for Ukraine in the self-declared Donetsk People’s Republic held by separatists backed by the Russia.

London called the procedure a “sham”. British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Tuesday the best way to secure Aslin and Pinner’s release was ‘by the Ukrainians’, but added she would do ‘whatever it takes’ .

Separatist authorities said all three had one month to appeal their sentences. Kyiv has pledged to try to secure their release through a prisoner exchange with Russia.

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Deliveries of Russian natural gas through a key pipeline to Europe will fall by around 40% this year, state-controlled energy giant Gazprom said on Tuesday, after Canadian sanctions against the war in Ukraine were lifted. prevented the German partner Siemens Energy from delivering overhauled equipment.

Germany’s utility network agency said it did not consider gas supply to be at risk and that the reduction in flows via the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline under the Baltic Sea was in line with commercial behavior and the announced cut. previously by Russia gas to Denmark and the Netherlands, reported the German news agency dpa. . The Federal Network Agency said it was monitoring the situation.

Spot gas prices have risen in Europe, a sign of concerns about the possible additional effects of the war on the supply of Russian gas, which fuels industry and generates electricity on the continent.

The European Union has presented plans to reduce dependence on Russian gas by two thirds by the end of the year. Economists say a complete shutdown would deal a severe blow to the economy, consumers and gas-intensive industries.

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The Russian Foreign Ministry said it had banned dozens of British media and defense figures from entering the country.

A statement on the ministry’s website on Tuesday said the banning of 29 journalists and commentators was a response to what it claimed was the British media’s “deliberate dissemination of false and one-sided information” about Russia and his war in Ukraine.

The list included editors and correspondents from the BBC and the Times and Guardian newspapers.

Twenty people were also banned, including the head of Britain’s navy, a junior defense minister and senior executives from defense and aerospace firms Thales UK and BAE Systems.

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The prime ministers of NATO members Albania and Montenegro are traveling to Kyiv after an invitation from Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Albanian Edi Rama announced the trip on social media, with a photo of him boarding a plane on Tuesday accompanied by Montenegro’s Dritan Abazovic.

The two Balkan countries denounced Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and joined in the sanctions against Moscow.

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Ukrainian authorities said on Tuesday they received the remains of 64 defenders from the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol during the latest body swap with Russia.

The statement from the Ministry of Reintegration of the Occupied Territories said the exchange took place in the Zaporizhzhia region, but did not specify how many bodies were returned to Russia.

It was one of many exchanges the warring parties conducted. Earlier this month, Moscow and Kyiv swapped 160 bodies each. There was no immediate confirmation from Moscow on the swap reported by Ukraine on Tuesday.

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Ukraine says its air defense system shot down two Russian cruise missiles targeting the southern Odessa region.

Serhiy Bratchuk, spokesman for the Odessa regional military administration, thanked the country’s air defense forces for destroying the “two enemy” cruise missiles.

There was no independent confirmation and it was unclear whether any missiles hit their targets. Odessa is a key western port for Ukraine on the Black Sea.

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The verdant beauty of a pine forest with songbirds contrasted with the violent deaths of newly discovered war victims, as workers exhumed bodies from another mass grave near the town of Bucha, on the outskirts of Kyiv .

The hands of several victims were tied behind their backs. The horrific job of digging up the remains coincided with the Ukrainian police chief’s report that authorities have opened criminal investigations into the killing of more than 12,000 people since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Since the withdrawal of Russian troops from the area in late March, authorities say they have discovered the bodies of 1,316 people, many of them in mass graves in the forest and elsewhere.

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Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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