Russia strikes a recalcitrant city in the east; Ukraine seeks longer-range weapons

  • Russian forces advance east, changing momentum
  • Capturing Lyman would set the stage for the next phase of the offensive
  • Sievierodonetsk under attack

KYIV, May 29 (Reuters) – Russian forces stepped up their assault on the largest city held by Ukrainian forces in the eastern Donbass region on Sunday, as Kyiv said it hoped weapons would longer range she desperately needs from Western allies could soon arrive.

Russia’s slow and solid gains in recent days in Donbass in eastern Ukraine, comprising the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, point to a subtle change in momentum in the war, which is now at its climax. fourth month.

The invading forces appear poised to seize the entire Lugansk region, one of the more modest war targets the Kremlin set after it abandoned its assault on the capital, Kyiv, in the face of the Ukrainian resistance.

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The Russian Defense Ministry said its troops and allied separatist forces have full control of Lyman, the site of a railway junction west of the Siverskyi Donets River in Donetsk.

However, Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said the battle for Lyman continues, the ZN.ua website reported.

Sievierodonetsk, about 60 km (40 miles) northeast of Lyman on the east bank of the river and the largest city in the Donbass still held by Ukraine, came under heavy attack.

“The situation has gotten extremely worse,” said Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of Luhansk.

The shelling was so intense that it was not possible to assess casualties and damage, although two people were killed on Saturday and 13 other buildings in the city were destroyed, he said. .

Gaidai said Friday that Ukrainian troops may have to withdraw from the town to avoid capture, but it was unclear whether they had started to withdraw.

Russian artillery was also pounding the Lysychansk-Bakhmut road, which Russia must use to close off a pincer movement and encircle Ukrainian forces, and police said there was “significant destruction” in Lysychansk.

Reuters could not independently verify the accounts.

Ukrainian presidential adviser and peace negotiator Mykhailo Podolyak reiterated his call for long-range American-made multiple rocket launchers. U.S. officials told Reuters such systems are being actively considered, with a decision possible in the coming days.

“It’s hard to fight when you’re attacked from 70 km away and you have nothing to fight back…we need effective weapons,” Podolyak posted on Twitter.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed hope in a late-night video address that Ukraine’s allies would provide the necessary weapons, adding that he expected “good news” in the coming days.

His adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, said: “The weapons we desperately need will most likely be delivered soon.”

Ukraine has started receiving Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark and self-propelled howitzers from the United States, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Saturday. Read more

“CATASTROPHIC CONSEQUENCES”

Zelenskiy said the military situation in Donbass was very complicated, adding that defenses were holding up in a number of places, including Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.

“It’s indescribably tough out there. And I’m grateful to everyone who stood up to that onslaught,” he said.

Analysts at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of Warfare said if Russian forces were to capture Sievierodonetsk, Ukraine could launch counteroffensives.

“Putin is now throwing men and ammunition at the last remaining major population center in this (region)…as if taking it would win the war for the Kremlin. He is wrong,” they said.

In frustration with Western differences over the war as its economic costs become more evident, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishyna said NATO had proven unable to mount a united response.

“We must speak clearly about the catastrophic consequences for the future of all of Europe if Ukraine is defeated,” she said on Facebook.

Pushing diplomatic efforts to find a solution to a conflict that has ramifications beyond Ukraine’s borders, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday during a call.

They urged him to lift the Russian blockade of the port of Odessa to allow Ukrainian grain exports, France said. The Kremlin said Putin told them Moscow was willing to discuss ways to allow Ukraine to resume grain shipments from Black Sea ports. Read more

Ukraine is a major grain exporter, and the blocking of its exports threatens to lead to food shortages in a number of countries, including in Africa.

Zelenskiy said in a television interview that he believed Russia would agree to talks if Ukraine could regain all the territory it has lost since the invasion began on February 24.

Still, Zelenskiy has ruled out using force to win back all the land Ukraine has lost to Russia since 2014, including the southern Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed that year.

“I don’t believe that we can restore all of our territory by military means. If we decide to go down this path, we will lose hundreds of thousands of people,” he said.

Russia says it is conducting a “special military operation” to demilitarize Ukraine and rid it of nationalists who threaten Russian speakers. Ukraine and Western countries say that Russia’s claims are a false pretext for a war of aggression.

Thousands of people, many of them civilians, have been killed and several million have fled their homes, either to safer parts of Ukraine or to other countries.

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Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Conor Humphries, Pavel Polityuk in Kyiv, Vitaliy Hnidyi in Kharkiv and Reuters reporters in Popasna, David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Phil Stewart in Washington, Lidia Kelley in Melbourne; Written by Robert Birsel; Editing by William Mallard

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