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Ukrainian defenders hold out in Donbas city under heavy fire


By Reuters and published by Channel NewsAsia

Kyiv – Ukrainian forces endured heavy artillery barrages on Sunday (May 29) as they held off Russian attempts to capture Sievierodonetsk, the largest city Ukraine still controls in the eastern region of Luhansk, officials said.

Russian shelling has destroyed all of Sievierodonetsk’s critical infrastructure, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, adding that Moscow’s main aim right now was to take the city.

“Some 90 per cent of buildings are damaged. More than two-thirds of the city’s housing stock has been completely destroyed. There is no telecommunication. There is constant shelling,” Zelenskiy said in a televised speech.

“Capturing Sievierodonetsk is a fundamental task for the occupiers … We do all we can to hold this advance,” he added.

The Ukrainian government meanwhile urged the West to provide it with more longer-range weapons in order to turn the tide in the war, now in its fourth month.

The battle for Sievierodonetsk, which lies on the eastern bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, is in the spotlight as Russia ekes out slow but solid gains in the part of the country known as the Donbas, comprising Luhansk and Donetsk regions close to the Russian border.

Having failed to take the capital Kyiv in the early phase of the war, Russia is seeking to consolidate its grip on the Donbas, large parts of which are already controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.

It has concentrated huge firepower on a small area – a contrast to earlier phases of the conflict when its forces were often spread thinly – bludgeoning towns and cities with artillery and air strikes.

Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War in Washington said the Russians had still not managed to encircle Sievierodonetsk and the Ukrainian defenders have inflicted “fearful casualties” on them.

The Ukrainians were taking serious losses themselves, civilians as well as combatants, they said in a briefing paper.

Russia’s focus on Sievierodonetsk had drawn resources from other battlefronts and as result they had made little progress elsewhere, the analysts said.

A Reuters journalist in the area said a ceramics factory was almost completely destroyed on the outskirts of the Donetsk town of Bakhmut, which straddles the last main road into Sievierodonetsk and is just 10 km (6 miles) from the frontline.

The journalist heard what appeared to be outgoing artillery fire and Russian aircraft dropping a bomb close to the town. Several transporters with Ukrainian soldiers could be seen in the area.

Embargo on Russian oil

Russia says its “special military operation” aims to rid Ukraine of nationalists threatening Russian-speakers. Ukraine and Western countries say Russia’s claims are a false pretext for a war of aggression and the West has imposed a barrage of sanctions targeting Moscow while delivering shipments of weapons to help the Ukrainian government defend itself.

However, after nearly half a dozen rounds of punitive measures, some against oligarchs close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and banks, the unity within the European Union is being put to fresh test as the bloc on Sunday failed to agree on an embargo of Russian oil. Talks will continue on Monday.

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck expressed fears that EU unity was “starting to crumble”. The bloc’s leaders are set to meet on Monday and Tuesday in a summit to discuss a new sanctions package against Russia including the oil embargo.

Meanwhile Zelenskyy – who has won widespread admiration in the West for his leadership in the conflict – visited Ukrainian troops on the frontlines in northeastern Kharkiv region on Sunday.

Several explosions were heard in Kharkiv city hours after the visit, a Reuters journalist said, in what was Zelenskyy’s first trip outside the Kyiv region since the invasion began.

A large plume of smoke could be seen rising northeast of the centre of the city, which has been the target of Russian shelling in recent days after several weeks of relative quiet.

“You risk your lives for us all and for our country,” the president’s office quoted him as telling soldiers as he handed out commendations and gifts.

Earlier, Zelenskyy voiced hopes that Ukraine’s allies would provide much-needed weapons and said he expected “good news” in the coming days.

Ukraine has started receiving Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark and US self-propelled howitzers, his defence minister said on Saturday.

Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak repeated a call for US-made long-range multiple-rocket launchers. US officials have said such systems are actively being considered, with a decision possible in coming days.

Elsewhere, Ukraine’s military command said its forces were counter-attacking in the southern Kherson region, most of which is occupied by Russia.

Mykolaiv’s regional administration said residential areas of Mykolaiv city had been shelled on Sunday morning, killing one civilian and wounding at least six.

Reuters was unable to verify the information.


Top: An Ukrainian service member rides on top of a military vehicle, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, on the road from Bakhmut to Kostyantynivka, in the Donetsk region, Ukraine, on May 29, 2022. Photo: Reuters /Carlos Barria and published by CNA

First insert: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, centre, inspects damaged buildings during a visit to the northeastern region of Kharkiv on Sunday. Photo: Ukrainian Presidential Press Office/The Associated Press and published by CBC

Second insert: A view shows a building heavily damaged during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in the town of Popasna in the Luhansk region, Ukraine. Photo: Reuters and published by Indian Express

Third insert: Ukraine has started receiving Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark and self-propelled howitzers from the United States. Photo: Representational/AP and published by Indian Express

Home Page: A Ukrainian serviceman sets up an anti-materiel rifle at a position, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Marinka, in Donetsk region, Ukraine. Photo/Anna Kudriavtseva and published by Indian Express

Also read: Russian gains in Ukraine’s east indicate a shift in momentum in the war

 Pounded by Russian offensive in the east, Ukraine rules out ceasefire

Russian forces step up east Ukraine campaign, more wounded leave Mariupol bastion

Russia’s laser weapon claim derided as propaganda

Putin takes Mariupol, but wider Donbas victory slipping from reach: Analysts

Mariupol fighters in Russian hands; both sides claim wins


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