Reuters:Russia seeks to put stranglehold on twin Ukrainian cities

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By Pavel Polityuk and Conor Humphries

KYIV/SLOVYANSK, Ukraine (Reuters) – Russian forces sought to encircle Ukrainian troops in twin eastern cities straddling a river as President Volodymyr Zelenskiy warned Moscow was seeking to destroy the industrial Donbas region where it has focused its attacks.

Russia is attempting to seize the separatist-claimed Donbas’ two provinces, Donetsk and Luhansk, and trap Ukrainian forces in a pocket on the main eastern front.

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

Service members of pro-Russian troops carry leaflet shells in the Luhansk region

© Reuters/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKOService members of pro-Russian troops carry leaflet shells in the Luhansk region

“The situation in Donbas is extremely difficult. All the remaining strength of the Russian army is now concentrated on this region,” Zelenskiy said in a late-night address on Tuesday. “The occupiers want to destroy everything there.”

Russia’s defence ministry did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment out-of-hours.

The easternmost part of the Ukrainian-held Donbas pocket, the city of Sievierodonetsk on the east bank of the Siverskiy Donets River and its twin Lysychansk on the west bank, have become the pivotal battlefield there. Russian forces were advancing from three directions to encircle them.

A damaged Ukrainian tank is transported out of the frontline, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine near the city of Kramatorsk

© Reuters/CARLOS BARRIAA damaged Ukrainian tank is transported out of the frontline, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine near the city of Kramatorsk

“The enemy has focused its efforts on carrying out an offensive in order to encircle Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk,” said Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Luhansk province, where the two cities are among the last territory still held by Ukraine.

Ukraine’s military said it had repelled nine Russian attacks on Tuesday in the Donbas where Moscow’s troops had killed at least 14 civilians, using aircraft, rocket launchers, artillery, tanks, mortars and missiles.

Reuters could not immediately verify the information.

In a sign of Ukrainian success elsewhere, authorities in its second-largest city Kharkiv re-opened the underground metro, where thousands of civilians had sheltered for months under relentless bombardment.

The move came after Ukraine pushed Russian forces largely out of artillery range of the northern city, as they did from the capital Kyiv in March.

WORLD WAR THREE?

Three months into the invasion, Moscow still has only limited gains to show for its worst military losses in decades, while much of Ukraine has suffered devastation in the biggest attack on a European state since 1945.

A man looks at a food vendo's stand at a local market, amid Russia's invasion of Ukraine in the city of Slovyansk, Donetsk region, Ukraine

© Reuters/CARLOS BARRIAA man looks at a food vendo’s stand at a local market, amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in the city of Slovyansk, Donetsk region, Ukraine

More than 6.5 million people have fled abroad, uncounted thousands have been killed and cities have been reduced to rubble.


Gallery: In pictures: Ukraine pushes Russian forces back in counter-offensive near Kharkiv (Reuters)

The war has also caused growing food shortages and soaring prices due to sanctions and disrupted supply chains. Both Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of grain and other commodities.

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen accused Russia of using food supplies as a weapon.

Billionaire financier George Soros, also speaking in Davos, said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine may have marked the start of World War Three.

“The best and perhaps only way to preserve our civilization is to defeat Putin as soon as possible,” he said.

Underlining the global tensions unleashed by the war, Japan – a key U.S. ally in Asia – scrambled jets on Tuesday after Russian and Chinese warplanes neared its airspace during a visit to Tokyo by U.S. President Joe Biden.

Russia seeks to put stranglehold on twin Ukrainian cities (msn.com)

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