Battle for Donbas twin cities reaches 'fearsome climax', says Ukraine

Battle for Donbas twin cities reaches ‘fearsome climax’, says Ukraine

  • Zelenskiy urges the West to hand over heavy weapons
  • EU leaders to start Ukraine’s accession process
  • The battle for the twin cities of Donbas reaches a critical stage

Kyiv, June 23 (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Moscow’s massive air and artillery strikes were aimed at destroying the entire Donbas region and urged Ukraine’s allies to speed up the shipment of heavy weapons to match Russia. on the battlefield.

The fight over the twin cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk in Ukraine’s Lugansk region is “entering a kind of fearsome climax,” said Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Zelenskiy. Russia seeks to capture both Luhansk and Donetsk, which make up the Donbas region, the nation’s industrial heartland.

On the diplomatic front, European leaders on Thursday will formally set Ukraine on the long road to EU membership at a summit in Brussels. Although mostly symbolic, the move will help boost morale after four months of bloody conflict that has killed thousands, displaced millions and destroyed cities.

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“We must liberate our land and achieve victory, but faster, much faster,” Zelenskiy said in a video address released early Thursday, reiterating Ukrainian demands for bigger and faster weapons.

“There were massive air and artillery strikes in Donbas. The goal of the occupier here has not changed, they want to destroy all of Donbas step by step,” he said.

‚ÄúThat is why we repeatedly emphasize the acceleration of arms deliveries to Ukraine. What is needed quickly is parity on the battlefield to stop this diabolical army and push it beyond Ukraine’s borders.”

BATTLE FOR THE TWIN CITIES

The fierce war of attrition in Donbas is most critical in Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.

Ukrainian forces were defending Sievierodonetsk and the nearby settlements of Zolote and Vovchoyrovka, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Thursday, but added that Russia had captured Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka to the south.

Hundreds of civilians are trapped in a chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk, with Ukraine and Russia arguing over who controls the bombed-out city.

Moscow says Ukrainian forces in the city are surrounded and trapped. But Gaidai told Ukrainian television on Wednesday that “Russian forces are not in full control.”

In Lysychansk, Gaidai said it was “very dangerous in the city” as everything was within range of Russian fire.

“To avoid the encirclement, our command could order the troops to withdraw to new positions. There may be a regrouping after last night,” he added.

The Tass news agency quoted Russian-backed separatists as saying that Lysychansk was now surrounded and cut off from supplies after a highway connecting the city to the city of Sieviersk was seized.

Reuters could not immediately confirm the report.

According to Britain’s Ministry of Defense, it is very likely that Russian forces have advanced more than 5 km (3.11 miles) towards the southern approaches to Lysychansk since June 19.

“Some Ukrainian units have withdrawn, probably to avoid being surrounded,” he said on Twitter.

“Russian forces are putting the Lysychansk-Sievierodonetsk pocket under increasing pressure with this creeping advance…however, their efforts to achieve a deeper encirclement to take western Donetsk Oblast remain stalled,” he added. ministry.

Arestovych said Russian forces in both cities were recruits of different levels of training after Ukraine inflicted heavy losses on Russian forces. Reuters was unable to verify his comments on the Russian losses.

“It’s like two boxers grappling with each other in the 18th round of a fight and they can barely get things moving. This operation started on April 14 and has lasted almost 80 days,” he said in an online video post.

EU MEMBERSHIP

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what the Kremlin calls a “special operation” to ensure Russian security and de-Nazify Ukraine. Ukraine and the West call this an unfounded pretext for a war of choice that has raised fears of a wider conflict in Europe.

Russia has long opposed closer ties between Ukraine, a former Soviet state, and Western clubs such as the European Union (EU) and the NATO military alliance.

Zelenskiy said he had spoken to 11 EU leaders on Wednesday about Ukraine’s bid and would make more calls on Thursday.

Diplomats say it will take a decade or more for Ukraine to meet the criteria to join the EU. But EU leaders say the bloc must make a gesture that acknowledges Ukraine’s sacrifice.

The war in Ukraine has had a massive impact on the global economy and European security, driving up gas, oil and food prices, pushing the EU to reduce its heavy reliance on Russian energy and prompting Finland and Sweden to seek membership in NATO.

The EU will temporarily return to coal to tackle declining Russian gas flows without derailing long-term climate goals, an EU official said on Wednesday.

Leaders of the Group of Seven and NATO will seek to increase pressure on Russia at meetings next week, US administration officials said. read more

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Reuters bureau reports; Written by Michael Perry; Edited by Himani Sarkar

Our standards: the Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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