Russian attacks laid down a curtain of fire on Tuesday across areas of eastern Ukraine where pockets of resistance are denying Moscow full military control of the region, almost four months after the Kremlin unleashed its invasion.
“Today everything that can burn is on fire,” Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, told The Associated Press.
Russia’s war has caused alarm over food supplies from Ukraine to the rest of the world and gas supplies from Russia, as well as raising questions about security in Western Europe.
The Russian military currently controls about 95 per cent of the Luhansk region. But Moscow has struggled for weeks to overrun it completely, despite deploying additional troops and possessing a massive advantage in military assets.
“With the help of tactical movements, the Ukrainian army is strengthening defenses in the Luhansk region,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly video address. “That really is where the toughest situation is now.”
In the city of Severodonetsk, the hot spot of the fighting, Ukrainian defenders held on to the Azot chemical plant in the industrial outskirts. About 500 civilians are sheltering at the plant, and Haidai said the Russian forces are turning the area “into ruins.”
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EU to welcome Ukraine candidacy on Thursday
In a symbolic decision, Ukraine is set to become an official candidate for European Union membership on Thursday, EU diplomats said.
Russia’s failure to make a major breakthrough so far since invading Ukraine means time is on the side of Ukrainians, according to some military analysts.
“It’s a heavyweight boxing match. In 2 months of fighting, there has not yet been a knockout blow. It will come, as RU forces become more depleted,” retired US Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, a former commander of US ground forces in Europe, wrote on Twitter.
Italy’s government hit after Five Star party split over war
Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s coalition government was rocked by fresh turmoil on Tuesday after the largest party in parliament split, with the foreign minister starting a breakaway group.
Luigi Di Maio said his decision to leave the Five Star Movement (M5S) – the party he once led – was due to its “ambiguity” over Italy’s support of Ukraine following Russia’s invasion.
But it follows months of internal tensions in the party, which has lost most of the support that propelled it to power in 2018 and risks being almost wiped out in national elections due next year.
As many as 60 former Five Star lawmakers have already signed up to Mr Di Maio’s new group, “Together for the Future”, media reports said.
Latest photos of the war in Ukraine as fighting continues in the east
Ukraine strengthening defences in Luhansk
Ukrainian and Russian forces remained entrenched in eastern Ukrainian battlegrounds going into Wednesday, a day of commemoration in both countries to mark the anniversary of Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.
Fighting in the months-long war has favoured Russia in recent weeks because of its huge edge in artillery firepower, a fact Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky acknowledged in a late Tuesday night address.
“Thanks to tactical maneuvers the Ukrainian army is strengthening its defences in the Luhansk region,” he said. “That is really the toughest spot. The occupiers are also pressing strongly in the direction of Donetsk.”
“And just as actively as we are fighting for a positive decision by the European Union on Ukraine’s candidate status, we are also fighting every day for modern weaponry for our country. We don’t let up for a single day,” Mr Zelensky said, urging those nations supporting his country to speed up arms deliveries.
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