The Ukrainian army surrenders the center of Severodonetsk to the Russians

The Ukrainian army announced Monday morning that it had withdrawn from central Severodonetsk following a fresh Russian offensive against that key eastern Ukraine city that the two warring factions have been fighting over for weeks.

“With artillery support, the enemy stormed Severodonetsk, achieved partial success and pushed our units back from the city center. Hostilities continue,” Ukraine’s General Staff said in its morning update posted on Facebook.

Sergey Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region, whose administrative center is Severodonetsk for the part controlled by the Ukrainian authorities, confirmed that Ukrainian forces had been pushed back from the center of the city.

“The street fighting continues (…) the Russians continue to destroy the city,” he wrote on Facebook on Monday morning, posting photos of buildings in ruins or on fire.

Mr Gaidai had warned on Sunday that the situation in Severodonetsk was becoming “extremely difficult” for the city’s defenders.

“The enemy wants to completely isolate Severodonetsk by preventing any passage of men or ammunition,” he said, saying he feared Russia “would send all its reserves to take the city within 48 hours.”

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called the recent fighting in Severodonetsk “very violent” in his evening video message on Sunday and said Moscow was deploying undertrained troops and using them as “cannon fodder”.

The capture of that city would open the way to another major city, Kramatorsk in Moscow, a stage in the conquest of the entire Donbass Basin, a primarily Russian-speaking region partially held by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

At the diplomatic level, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen confirmed this on Sunday, after promising Kyiv the day before an answer “by the end of next week” to Ukraine’s request to start an accession process to the European Union “The challenge ( would be) to emerge from the European Council (scheduled for June 23rd and 24th) with a unified position that reflects the importance of these historic decisions”.

For their part, World Trade Organization (WTO) member states met on Sunday in Geneva with the specific aim of helping to find a solution to the risk of a serious food crisis posed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, whose fertile land has traditionally been fertile Feed hundreds of millions of people on the planet.

Tensions surfaced at a behind-closed-doors meeting where delegates took the floor to condemn Russian aggression. The Ukrainian delegate, who also spoke, was greeted with a standing ovation, according to WTO spokesman Dan Pruzin.

Then, just before Russian Economic Development Minister Maxim Rechetnikov took the floor, “about 30 delegates left the room,” Pruzin said.

The sanctions imposed on Moscow have not prevented Russia from raking in 93 billion euros in revenue from fossil fuel exports in the first 100 days of the war, the bulk of which went to the EU, according to a report by an independent research center published on Monday.

On Sunday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said it had “destroyed a large warehouse containing anti-tank missile systems, man-portable air defense systems and shells supplied by the United States and the Kiev regime in Chortkiv” in a rare attack on western Ukraine.

The strike in this town, 140 km from the Romanian border, left 22 injured, according to the governor of this region.

In Mikolayiv, a major port on the Dnieper estuary to the south, the Russian advance has been halted on the outskirts of the city, fighting is turning to trench warfare and authorities are taking action to bomb infrastructure, according to a team of AFP journalists on the ground.

There the Ukrainian army dug trenches from the Russians. “The Russians are bluffing. They are numerous, they have many weapons, old and new, but they are not soldiers,” assured Sunday Serguiï, 54, captain of the Ukrainian brigade, while his comrades fired on enemy positions.

On Monday Amnesty International accused Russia of war crimes in Ukraine and said hundreds of civilians died in relentless attacks on Kharkiv, many with cluster bombs.

After a thorough investigation, the human rights NGO claims to have found evidence showing Russian forces used cluster munitions and 9N210 and 9N235 cluster munitions, two categories used internationally, in seven attacks on residential neighborhoods in Ukraine’s second-largest city in the north-east of the country contracts are prohibited.

According to prosecutors, the Ukrainian judiciary has opened more than 12,000 investigations into war crimes in the country since the start of the Russian invasion.

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