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Russia is putting more force on Ukraine’s “creeping” advance

Kyiv – Reinforced Russian troops supported by airstrikes devastated part of eastern Ukraine On Saturday they blew up bridges and shelled apartment buildings as they fought to seize two cities that would bring a contested province under Moscow’s control, Ukrainian officials said.

Russian and Ukrainian Armed Forces Fighting street by street in Sievierodonetsk and neighboring Lysychansk, regional governor Serhiy Haidai said. Four people, including a mother and a child, were killed in Russian attacks in the nearby village of Hirske, Haidai said.

The cities are the last large areas of Luhansk Province still held by Ukraine. The Russian attacks are at the heart of the Kremlin’s reduced war goal of conquering the entire Donbass region, where Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces for eight years and established self-proclaimed republics.

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Russia also escalated attacks in Donetsk, the other province that makes up Donbass, Ukraine’s military said as a war reached its 101st day.

In response to the melee, Russian and Ukrainian military officers blamed each other for a fire that destroyed a wooden church at the Sviatohirsk Monastery, one of Ukraine’s holiest Orthodox Christian sites, in 1912. The sprawling 16th-century monastery, which sits on the banks of the Siverskiy Donets River, has been hit several times during the war, most recently on Wednesday when three monks were killed.

In his nightly video address on Saturday, President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of “deliberately and systematically destroying Ukrainian culture and its historical heritage, along with social infrastructure such as housing and everything needed for normal life.”

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He said 113 churches were damaged or destroyed during the invasion, including some that survived the battles of World War II.

In recent days, Russian forces have focused on capturing Sieverodonetsk, which had a population of around 100,000 before the war. At one point she held 90% of the city, but Ukrainian soldiers have made up some ground, Haidai reported Friday. Zelenskyj described the city’s situation on Saturday as “extremely difficult”.

Western military analysts said Russia was deploying significant troops and firepower to what British officials called a “creeping advance” in the Donbass.

“The combined use of air and artillery strikes has been a key factor in Russia’s recent tactical successes in the region,” Britain’s MoD said in an assessment on Saturday. The ministry warned that after launching so many guided missiles, Russia was using unguided missiles that “almost certainly caused significant collateral damage and civilian casualties.”

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The Ukrainian military said it had repelled nine attacks in Donbass within 24 hours. The claim could not be independently verified.

While Russian forces are concentrating on the Donbass, Ukraine has launched counterattacks to try to regain territory in the south.

After capturing most of the Kherson and Dnipropetrovsk regions, as well as the port city of Mariupol, Moscow installed local administrators, offered residents Russian passports, and took other steps to consolidate theirs hold occupied territories.

Russian shelling killed at least three civilians in the Black Sea port city of Mykolaiv, Mayor Oleksandr Senkevich said on Saturday.

The Institute for the Study of War, a Washington-based think tank, said officials and troops stationed in Russia are encountering growing opposition from local people and “an increase in partisan activity in southern Ukraine.”

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The institute cited reports on Russian Telegram channels about threats against local people who received Russian passports.

Ukraine’s Center for National Resistance, which has set up a website to advise people on sabotage and other techniques, said Kherson residents were encouraged to burn down a Russian passport center.

The Ukrainian military noted with approval the difficulties faced by the occupation authorities, saying that the leaders deployed by Russia in Kherson wore bulletproof vests and traveled in armored vehicles.

For other developments:

– Ukraine’s Foreign Minister condemned the French President for saying the West should not “humiliate” Russian President Vladimir Putin. French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with French newspapers on Friday that Putin made a “historic mistake” in invading, but world powers should not “humiliate Russia so that when the fighting stops, we can unite together through diplomatic channels.” can find a way out. ” Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted in response: “Calls to avoid humiliating Russia can only humiliate France or any other country that would call for it. … We all better focus on how we can bring Russia to its place. That will bring peace.” and save lives.”

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– The bodies of more than 1,300 civilians have been exhumed so far in the region around the Ukrainian capital following Russia’s military withdrawal from the region, Ukraine’s Interior Ministry reported on Saturday. The bodies were taken to morgues for forensic examination and about 200 of the victims were not identified, said ministry spokeswoman Alyona Matveyeva. Since Russian forces left the region in early April, Ukrainian authorities have been collecting the dead, exhuming bodies from mass graves and gathering evidence for possible investigations and prosecutions into war crimes.

— A Russian missile hit an agricultural site in the Odessa region on Saturday, injuring two people, according to a regional military chief. A spokesman for the Russian Defense Ministry said a missile attack destroyed a foreign mercenary base. Home to Ukraine’s largest seaport, Odessa is vital to the country’s ability to ship grain and other goods. The attack came hours after Foreign Minister Kuleba tweeted: “Ukraine is ready to create the necessary conditions to resume exports from the port of Odessa. The question is how to ensure that Russia does not abuse the trade route to attack the city.”

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– Ukraine’s presidential aide Mykhailo Podolyak said in an interview published Saturday that Russia is suffering significantly fewer military casualties compared to the first six weeks of the war. The lower numbers could make Russian commanders “think they are fighting successfully,” the website quoted Meduza Podolyak as saying. In a speech on Ukrainian television, he expressed optimism that new Western-supplied weapons could change the “math” of war.

– Pope Francis said he had to wait for the “right moment” to go to Ukraine. A Ukrainian refugee visiting the Vatican with a group of children asked the pope if he would go to his home country. Francis told the boy that he thinks a lot about the children in Ukraine and has a desire to go there. He said it is “not easy to make a decision that could do more harm than good to the whole world. I have to find the right moment for it.” The pope said he will discuss the issue next week when Ukrainian government officials visit the Vatican.

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Varenytsia and Rosa reported from Sloviansk, Ukraine.

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Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

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https://www.local10.com/news/world/2022/06/04/russia-puts-more-strength-behind-creeping-ukraine-advance/ Russia is putting more force on Ukraine’s “creeping” advance

Sarah Y. Kim

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