Ukraine: fighting rages in Donbass, call for rescue from Mariupol defenders

Ukraine: fighting rages in Donbass, call for help from defenders of Mariupol

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KYIV | Particularly intense fighting is raging in the Donbass region (eastern Ukraine), on which Moscow is focusing without significant progress, while “very difficult” negotiations are taking place over the fate of the last defenders of the strategic port city of Mariupol . 

 “There is heavy fighting on the border with the Donetsk region, near Popasna”, commented Friday evening on Facebook Serguiï Gaïdaï, Ukrainian governor of the Lugansk region, reporting numerous losses of equipment and personnel on the Russian side.

“It’s a horror but they are still trying to achieve their ends. But from the interceptions (of telephone communications), we understand that an entire battalion refused to attack because they see what is happening,” he noted.

A US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the most significant Russian activity currently is taking place in the Donbass. “And basically we continue to see that the Russians are not making a significant hold” in this region, he said.

Ukraine: fighting rages in Donbass, call for rescue from Mariupol defenders

Ukraine: fighting rages in Donbass, call for help defenders of Mariupol

“Ukrainian artillery thwarts Russian efforts to gain ground, including their efforts to cross the Donest River (…) which affects their ability to send significant reinforcements to northern Donbass,” the source continued.

The British Ministry of Defense (MoD) said on Friday that Ukrainian forces had “successfully repelled” a Russian attempt to cross this river near Severodonetsk, causing Moscow troops heavy losses.

This operation illustrates “the pressure under which the Russian commanders find themselves to progress in eastern Ukraine”, estimated the MoD, stressing that the Russian army had “not managed to make significant advances although it concentrated its forces there after” having given up imposing itself in kyiv.

At the end of March, a few weeks after its invasion of Ukraine on February 24, Russia withdrew from the region of the capital, changing “priority target” to try to take control of eastern Ukraine.

Next annexation?

According to the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), Vladimir Putin “probably intends to annex southern and eastern Ukraine to the Russian Federation in the coming months”.

“Ukraine and its Western partners probably have only a reduced window of opportunity to support a counter-offensive in the territories occupied before” their annexation, according to this body.< /p>

The situation has apparently already reversed in Kharkiv, yet one of the priority targets for the Russians.

“The gradual liberation of the Kharkiv region proves that we will leave no one behind. 'enemy,' Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky noted Friday evening in his daily message, announcing that the recovery of territories that fell into Russian hands was continuing.

“As of today, 1 015 localities have been liberated, six more in the last 24 hours,” he said.

Water, electricity, communications, transport and public services have been restored there, he said, confident to keep in mind the cities and territories still under Russian occupation.

With a special thought for the thousand or so Ukrainian fighters entrenched in a maze of Soviet-era tunnels under the Azovtal steel plant in Mariupol, for whom “very difficult negotiations are underway on the next phase of evacuation, the seriously injured and the medical personnel”.

Women, children and the elderly who had taken refuge in these underground passages were all evacuated at the end of April thanks to an operation coordinated by the United Nations and the Red Cross after arduous negotiations.

Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk made the same observation, referring to “negotiations with the enemy (which) are very difficult”. “We are currently negotiating (the exfiltration) of 38 seriously injured fighters. We are advancing step by step. (…) There are no discussions at the moment for the release of 500 to 600 people.”

Resist as much as possible

Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy commander of the Azov regiment, one of the Ukrainian formations fighting in Azovstal, appealed for help from the United States “to evacuate our wounded and (that they) mobilize all efforts to help extract of our regiment” of this encirclement “There are nearly 600 wounded on Azovstal, the Russians continue to bombard the military hospital”, he testified from the factory. “We will resist as long as we can (…), if we had not done so, this horde would go further”.

But “we must not exaggerate the power of world leaders” in the face of Moscow's determination, reacted Ms. Vereshchuk.

International efforts have so far proved unsuccessful to save these Ukrainian soldiers defending this city 90% destroyed by Russian bombing.

In this context, the European Union pledged on Friday to provide additional aid of half a billion euros to support Ukraine's fight, bringing it “to 2 billion euros in total”.

The recipe is 'clear', EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told a G7 meeting in Wangels, in Germany's far north: 'more of the same' is needed. thing”, namely more economic sanctions against Russia, more support for kyiv, and also “continue to work to isolate Russia”.

The head of EU diplomacy Josep Borrell.

The 27 members of the European Union have still not managed to agree to gradually stop their purchases of Russian oil, however, Hungary having considered the waiver obtained insufficient.

< strong>All-round enlargements

The foreign ministers of the G7 (Germany, France, Italy, Canada, United States, Japan and United Kingdom), joined by their Ukrainian counterparts Dmytro Kouleba and Moldovan Nicu Popescu, are meeting until Saturday.

An informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers on Ukraine is also scheduled for Saturday in Berlin.

An official Swedish report on Friday paved the way for the country's accession to the Atlantic Alliance, by multiplying the favorable conclusions before the decision of this Nordic country and its Finnish neighbor in the coming days, i.e. two members of the EU who have remained outside military alliances for decades. To the chagrin of Moscow.

Another consequence, favorable to the Kremlin this time: a pro-Russian separatist region has taken a step towards joining Russia.

The authorities of this “republic Self-proclaimed separatist, de facto independent of pro-Western Georgia and occupied by Moscow forces since a Russian military intervention in 2008, announced on Friday that it would organize a referendum on July 17 on its integration into Russia.

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