The Russian army tightened its grip on eastern Ukraine on Thursday, its priority target, on the 99th day of a war that allowed it to seize 20% of the country, according to Kiev.
Three months after the invasion began, Russian forces are currently controlling “about 20 percent” of Ukraine’s territory, or nearly 125,000 km2, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday.
Prior to the invasion, Russian or pro-Russian forces have controlled 43,000 km2 since the annexation of Crimea and the capture of a third of the Donbass in 2014. Since February 24, they have advanced east and south. , along the Black and Azov Seas, now controlling a strategic coastal corridor connecting eastern Russia to Crimea.
Following the failure of their lightning offensive to bring down the Kiev government, Russian forces are concentrating on the conquest of the Donbass (east) where a war of attrition is now being waged, especially around the strategic city of Severodonetsk.
And Moscow’s roller-coaster is slowly coming to fruition.
“The most difficult situation” concerns Lugansk, one of the two regions of the Donbass, where “the enemy is trying to dislodge our troops from their positions,” said the commander-in-chief of the Ukrainian Armed Forces, Valeri Zaloujny, quoted in an army statement issued Wednesday night through Thursday.
Severodonetsk, the region’s administrative capital, is now “80 percent occupied” by Russian forces and fighting is raging in the streets, Lugansk region governor Sergei Gaidai said Wednesday night through Thursday.
– “New Marioupol” –
Ukrainian leaders have recently accused Moscow of trying to make Severodonetsk a “new Mariupol”.
Russian pressure also remains on Donetsk, the other Donbass region, including Sloviansk, some 80 km west of Severodonetsk. People in the area are short of gas, water and electricity, according to Kiev.
“The enemy has an operational advantage in terms of artillery,” Valeri Zaloujny conceded in a telephone conversation on Wednesday with French Army Chief of Staff General Thierry Burkhard, according to Kiev.
The Ukrainian general has called for the delivery of “NATO-type” weapons to his country as soon as possible. “It would save lives,” he said.
In particular, Kiev is awaiting deliveries of more powerful missile launcher systems promised by US President Joe Biden, in the hope that this will change the balance of power on the ground.
Russia said on Thursday that it had stopped the influx of foreign “mercenaries” who wanted to fight alongside the Kiev army by inflicting heavy losses on them in recent weeks.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, the number of foreign fighters has been “almost halved” from 6,600 to 3,500, and a “large number” of them “prefer to leave the country” as soon as possible. .
On Wednesday night, Russian forces bombed several railway lines in the western Lviv region, which includes weapons delivered to Ukraine by Western countries, aid denounced by Moscow. .
Risk of food crisis
Ukrainian forces are losing up to a hundred soldiers every day, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
“The situation in the east is really difficult (…) We are losing 60 to 100 soldiers a day, killed in combat, and some 500 are injured,” he said.
In the south, Ukrainians are worried about a possible annexation of the regions conquered by Russian forces, with Moscow calling for referendums in July.
Diplomatically, EU countries on Thursday approved a sixth package of sanctions against Moscow including an embargo, with exemptions, on oil purchases but blacklisting the head of the Russian Orthodox Church , under pressure from Hungary.
The text has yet to receive the written consent of each member state for publication in the Official Journal on Friday to allow the measures to enter into force, the French presidency of the EU Council said.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Alexander Novak has responded by saying that Europeans will be the first to “suffer” from the oil embargo.
“European consumers will be the first to suffer from this decision. Not only oil prices but also oil prices will rise. I do not rule out a large shortage of oil products in the EU,” he said. said Mr. Novak.
In the United States, the Biden administration has announced a new round of sanctions against a number of new oligarchs or members of Moscow’s “elite”, including Russian diplomacy spokeswoman Maria Zakharova.
– Ukraine 3, Scotland 1
Westerners would also like to lift the blockade of Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea, including Odessa (south), the country’s main gateway for agricultural production, to boost grain exports to Ukraine. one of the world’s largest producers.
At least 20 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain cannot be exported because of the Russian blockade, which poses a risk of a global food crisis.
Senegalese President Macky Sall, the current president of the African Union (AU), was expected in Russia on Thursday to hold talks with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin, who invited him to Sochi.
The AU hopes to “contribute to the calm in the war in Ukraine, and to the release of grain and fertilizer stocks whose blockage is particularly affecting African countries,” they added.
After pushing Finland and Sweden to join NATO, the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues to have other geostrategic effects, with the Danes massively voting “yes” on Wednesday in a referendum on a their country in the European Union’s defense policy, after refusing to do so for three decades.
Ukraine’s football team also beat Scotland (3-1) on Wednesday night in a play-off match for the 2022 World Cup, allowing locals to briefly forget about the daily grind of war. Ukraine will get its ticket to Qatar if it beats Wales on Sunday.
burx-emd / emp / mm / oaa