street fighting and Russian shelling in Severodonetsk, a key city in Donbass

The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky stated that his soldiers were “resisting” in Severodonetsk, where intense street battles are taking place against Russian troops, a strategic city on which control over the entire Donbass region in eastern Ukraine depends.

“Severodonetsk, Lysychansk and other cities in Donbass, which the occupiers now see as their targets, are staying in place,” Zelensky said in a speech Thursday night.

The ice palace, one of the city’s symbols, has been destroyed in a fire caused by Russian bombing, Luhansk Oblast Governor Serhiy Haidai told the Telegram on Friday.

The capture of Severodonetsk will pave the way for Moscow to another major city in Donbass, Kramatorsk, an important step in capturing Russia’s entire border region, which has been partially held by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

However, Ukraine could return Severodonetsk “in two or three days” as soon as it has “distant” western artillery, Mr. Gaidai had previously assured.

– “Heavy weapons” –

Ukrainians are constantly asking Western allies for new, more powerful weapons.

Zelensky said that on Thursday he discussed with Emmanuel Macron French military assistance to Ukraine, including in the field of “heavy weapons”, – said the French president. Kyiv’s candidacy for EU membership was also discussed.

Washington and London have announced the supply of multiple rocket launchers with a range of about 80 km, which is slightly longer than the Russian, but when the Ukrainians will be able to use them is unknown.

Kyiv wants “up to 100 soldiers” to be killed and “500 wounded” every day, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Thursday.

Lysychansk, neighboring Severodonetsk, remains completely under Ukrainian control but is under “heavy” bombing, according to Mr Gaidai, who accuses the Russians of “deliberately” attacking hospitals and humanitarian aid centers.

The Russians are also bombing the Donetsk region, the rest of Donbass, “along the entire front line,” including attacks on Slavyansk and Bakhmut, Kyiv reports.

According to a report by the Ukrainian army published on Facebook, the Russians bombed more than twenty settlements in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. On Thursday, Ukrainian troops repulsed seven Russian attacks.

– “Mercenaries” sentenced to death –

In this context, pro-Russian separatist authorities announced the death sentences on Thursday for two Britons and a Moroccan.

The British Aiden Aslin and Sean Pinner and the Moroccan Brahim Saadun, who will file an appeal, are accused of taking part in hostilities with the Ukrainians as “mercenaries”, according to the official Russian news agency TASS.

London has expressed its “serious concern”.

According to the International Legion of Defense of Ukraine (IUCU), the official organization of foreign volunteer fighters, four foreign volunteer soldiers, including a Frenchman, were killed in the fight against the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

This week, Russia said it had killed “hundreds” of foreign militants since its invasion began on February 24 and halted the flow of newcomers.

The exact number of these foreigners is unknown. In early March, shortly after the Russian invasion began, President Zelensky said 16,000 foreigners had volunteered, a figure that cannot be verified from independent sources.

– Exclusion from FAO? –

Due to the war, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), a sharp rise in grain and fertilizer prices should lead to a sharp rise in bills for importing countries in 2022, who will pay “more for less”.

Ukrainian grain exports are hampered by the blockade of its ports by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

The countries of Africa and the Middle East were the first to suffer.

Senegalese President Maki Sall, the current president of the African Union, called on Thursday for the demining of the Ukrainian port of Odesa and said he had received assurances from President Vladimir Putin that Russia would not attack.

Mr Sall is scheduled to meet with Emmanuel Macron in France on Friday. He intends to ask him to lift European sanctions against Russia, including excluding Russian banks from the Swift system, secure messaging and an important cog in international money transfers, he said.

For his part, Mr Zelensky called on Thursday to exclude Russia from the FAO.

The FAO did not immediately respond to this call.

A meeting in Ankara on Wednesday between Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu to discuss “safe maritime corridors” to resume grain transportation in the Black Sea ended in vain.

– Inflation record –

Rising prices are also affecting Russia, where inflation rose sharply in April, breaking a 20-year record. Despite the decline in May, according to official figures, it reached 17.1% for the year.

The Institute of International Finance (IFF) forecasts a 15% contraction in the Russian economy this year and another 3% in 2023. For Ukraine, GDP has already fallen by 15.1% in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same period in 2022. last year, according to official Ukrainian data.

burx-cn / elm