Russian troops advance in eastern Ukraine
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Russian troops advance in eastern Ukraine

Russian forces have taken control of three towns in the Donetsk region, including Svitlodarsk, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told a local affiliate of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Russian troops advance in eastern Ukraine

Earlier on Tuesday, the Russian-backed People’s Republic of Donetsk said in a message to Telegram’s messaging service that its troops had taken control of the city and replaced the Ukrainian flag with a Russian one.

Svitlodarsk is 80 km southwest of Sievierodonetsk, the center of Russian attacks in recent days.

The decisive battles of the last phase of the war are raging in Ukraine as Russia seeks to capture the Donbas region of two eastern provinces, Donetsk and Luhansk, and trap Ukrainian troops in a pocket on the east front.

“Now we are observing the most active phase of the large-scale aggression that Russia launched against our country,” Ukraine’s Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motuzyanyk told a televised briefing.

“The situation on the (Eastern) Front is extremely difficult because the fate of this country may now be decided (there).”

“The enemy has focused its efforts on conducting an offensive to encircle Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk,” said Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Luhansk province, where the two cities were among the last areas remaining in Ukraine’s hands.

“The intensity of the fire on Sievierodonetsk has increased several times; they are just destroying the city,” he said on TV, adding that about 15,000 people lived there.

Farther west in Slovyansk, one of the largest Donbas cities still in Ukrainian hands, the air-raid sirens blared on Tuesday. However, the streets were still bustling, with a market full of children cycling and a busker playing the violin at a supermarket.

Gaidai said Ukrainian forces had expelled the Russians from the village of Toshkivka just south of Sievierodonetsk.

Just three months after President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine, authorities in the second-largest city of Kharkiv reopened the underground metro where thousands of civilians had been hiding for months under relentless bombing.

The move was a testament to Ukraine’s greatest military success in recent weeks — pushing Russian forces largely out of Kharkiv’s artillery range.

About 6.5 million people have fled abroad, countless thousands have died, and cities have been reduced to rubble.

The war has also had huge international repercussions, including increasing food shortages and rising prices in developing countries that import Ukrainian grain.

The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, called on Tuesday for talks with Russia about releasing wheat exports now trapped in Ukraine over a Russian blockade in the Black Sea.

The global geopolitical tensions unleashed by the war underlined Japan – a key US ally in Asia that has joined sanctions against Russia – jet fighters on Tuesday after Russian and Chinese warplanes approached its airspace during a visit to Tokyo by US President Joe Biden.

Remarks by senior Russian officials on Tuesday suggested plans for a protracted conflict.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia was advancing slowly to avoid civilian casualties.

Nikolai Patrushev, head of Putin’s Security Council, said Russia was not “chasing deadlines” and would fight as long as necessary to stamp out “Nazism” in Ukraine, a justification for the war officials in Kyiv dismiss as nonsense.

On Tuesday, a Russian-backed separatist leader in eastern Ukraine, Denis Pushilin, said that foreign representatives would be invited to a trial of Ukrainian fighters who surrendered in Mariupol, Interfax news agency reported.

Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that the “relentless” offensive in Donbas showed that Ukraine still needed more foreign weapons, especially multiple missile systems, long-range artillery, and armored vehicles.

In Russia, where criticism of what it calls a “special operation” has been banned and independent media have been shut down, imprisoned opposition leader Alexei Navalny used a video link appearance in court from a prison colony to promote the “stupid war your Putin started” to denounce. †

“A madman got his claws in Ukraine, and I don’t know what he wants to do with them – this mad thief,” Navalny said.

with reporting from DPA