War in Ukraine, Day 131 | Putin orders continuation of fighting, conference on reconstruction

(Sloviansk) Vladimir Putin on Monday ordered Russian forces to resume their offensive in eastern Ukraine the day after capturing Lysytchansk, at a time when Kyiv estimated the cost of the country’s future reconstruction at $750 billion.

Posted at 6:26
Updated at 9:07 am

Benoît FINCK
Media Agency France

what you need to know

  • Ukraine’s reconstruction is “the common task” of the democratic world, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelesnky;
  • Ukraine claims to have returned its flag to Snake Island;
  • Putin orders continuation of Russian offensive after capture of Lugansk region;
  • Reconstruction of Ukraine at the center of an international conference in Switzerland;
  • France adopts moratorium on deportations of foreign students fleeing Ukraine;
  • Ivan Fedotov, goalkeeper of the Russian national ice hockey team, was arrested and sent to the Far North for military service;
  • The Kyiv School of Economics has so far estimated damage to buildings and infrastructure at nearly $104 billion;
  • The European Investment Bank (EIB) wants to propose the establishment of a new fund for Ukraine, which could reach 100 billion euros.

The latter will be “the common task of the entire democratic world,” stressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking remotely at the opening of an international conference organized in Lugano, Switzerland, to prepare the huge project.

Its Prime Minister Denys Chmygal, who has now been able to make the trip, presented a plan that was “already estimated at $750 billion”.

The conference, which is due to end on Tuesday, comes as the outcome of the war sparked by the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24 is uncertain.

In Moscow, for his part, the Russian President, at a meeting with his Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu, gave the order to the Russian troops “to carry out their mission” in accordance with the “already approved plans”.


PHOTO MIKHAIL KLIMENTYEV, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Vladimir Putin met his Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in the Kremlin on Monday. On Sunday evening, Ukraine’s general staff announced the withdrawal of troops from Lysychansk, the last Kyiv-held bastion in the Lugansk region that Moscow says it now fully controls.

On Sunday evening, the General Staff of Ukraine’s army announced the withdrawal of units deployed in Lysytchansk, Kiev’s last bastion in the Lugansk region, which Moscow says it now fully controls.

The urgency for Ukrainian forces now is to stem the Russian advance west and two major cities in the neighboring Donetsk region: Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.

“Gradual Overflow”

After capturing Lysytchansk, a key part of the plan to seize Donbass, an industrial basin partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014, “the enemy’s main effort […] is aimed at a gradual overflow of the Ukrainian military on this axis, the Ukrainian General Staff said on Monday.

According to Donetsk Region Governor Pavlo Kirilenko, ten people, including two children, died in Russian strikes in and around Sloviansk on Sunday.

The front line is approaching this city, the Ukrainian authorities are urging the population to leave.

The streets of Sloviansk were almost deserted on Monday morning, local AFP journalists reported. At the downtown market, which was devastated by a fire caused by a Russian strike, some vendors offered staples while others cleared charred debris.


PHOTO GENIA SAVILOV, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A Ukrainian police officer monitors a market in Sloviansk that was hit by a rocket.

Vendors and local residents expressed their concern for the coming days and weeks as explosions from the bombing could be heard.

“I think what awaits us is getting worse, I was already thinking about leaving,” said Andriï Gerassimenko, 38, who is picking up the debris from the market.

“Nothing good will happen, the best thing is to leave,” added Viktoria Koloty, a 33-year-old woman who said she had already sent her children away.

In Siwersk, between Lyssytchansk and Sloviansk, the Ukrainian soldiers seem to want to hold a defensive line between that town and Bakhmout further south. Its residents, interviewed by AFP, recall increasingly intense bombing in recent days.

“The enemy has intensified its shelling of our positions in the direction of Bakhmout,” confirmed the General Staff of the Ukrainian Army.

For its part, the Russian army claimed to have destroyed “seven Ukrainian command posts” in the past 24 hours, “including that of the 25the Airborne Brigade in Siversk Oblast”. Statements that cannot be verified by an independent source.

billion dollars

In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city in northeastern Ukraine, local authorities said three civilians died in a shelling on Monday before dawn.


PHOTO SERGEY BOBOK, AGENCE FRANCE PRESS

Kharkiv residents photograph a crater created by a Russian rocket.

In Boutcha, a martyrdom town on the outskirts of Kyiv, the population still doesn’t dare to think about reconstruction, even if some are planting flowers at the foot of buildings again or cavorting in their vegetable gardens. War remains so uncertain. The scars of the battles are still visible everywhere here: broken windows, bullet holes, burnt-out walls…

“We go to bed not knowing if we’ll wake up tomorrow,” sighs Vera Semeniouk, 65. “Everyone has come back, are starting to repair the houses, many are installing new windows. It would be terrible if it started all over again and you had to leave everything again.

In this context, the Lugano conference on Monday and Tuesday must try to outline the future reconstruction of Ukraine.

The “task is really colossal”, if only in the liberated areas, Volodymyr Zelenskyy admitted on Sunday. The organizers of the conference hoped for his physical presence, but, as is his habit now, he took part in this meeting, which brought together the leaders of Ukraine’s allies, international institutions, but also the private sector, via videoconference.

The conference was planned well before the war and was initially intended to focus on reforms in Ukraine and in particular on the fight against corruption.

Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Chmygal and Parliament Speaker Rouslan Stefantchouk arrived in Lugano on Sunday. They met with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to lay the groundwork for a “Marshall Plan” for Ukraine.

Mr. Chmygal explained that the priority is to help the war-affected population before they can finance thousands of reconstruction projects in a second step and prepare for a European, green and digital Ukraine in the long term.

Robert Mardini, director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said on the Swiss public television channel RTS that it was important to give the Ukrainians “a positive perspective”.

According to informed sources, the European Investment Bank (EIB) will propose the creation of a new fund for Ukraine, which could reach 100 billion euros. And for Mr. Chmygal, Russian assets frozen in Western countries alone are estimated at $300-500 billion.

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