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Russia strikes depot in western Ukraine, battle for Severodonetsk rages

Russian forces said on Sunday they struck a site in western Ukraine stockpiling US and EU-supplied weapons, as fighting intensified in an eastern region where the country’s commander-in-chief said the land “was covered in blood”.

The strike on the town of Chortkiv, a rare attack by Russia in relatively calm western Ukraine, left 22 injured, the regional governor said.

Meanwhile, the situation in Severodonetsk was “extremely difficult”, after the Russian military destroyed a second bridge in the city and heavily shelled the last, regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said.

Valeriy Zaluzhny, commander-in-chief of Ukraine’s military, said Russia’s massive artillery in the region gave it a tenfold advantage.

But, he added in a Facebook post, “Despite everything, we continue to occupy positions. Every meter of Ukrainian land is covered in blood – but not only ours, but also that of the occupier.”

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which began on February 24, has killed thousands of soldiers and civilians, displaced millions and reduced swaths of the country to rubble.

President Volodymyr Zelensky described the latest fighting in Severodonetsk as “very fierce…literally every yard”.

In his evening video statement, he said Russia was deploying under-trained troops and using its young men as “cannon fodder”.

Far from the battlefield, the members of the World Trade Organization gathered in Geneva on Sunday with, at the top of a difficult agenda, the need to tackle global food security threatened by the Russian invasion. of wheat-producing Ukraine.

Tensions rose during a closed session, where several delegates took the floor to condemn Russia’s war, including the envoy from Kyiv who was greeted with a standing ovation, the spokesman said. WTO, Dan Pruzin, to reporters.

Then, just before Russian Economic Development Minister Maxim Reshetnikov took the floor, about three dozen delegates “came out,” the spokesman said.

This came a day after the head of the European Commission promised that Ukraine would receive a clear signal within a week regarding its application to join the European Union.

“Ukraine has achieved a lot in the last 10 years and there is still a lot to do. Our opinion will take this into account carefully,” Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said after a visit. surprise in Kyiv.

EU leaders are expected to endorse the bid at an upcoming summit, but with strict conditions.

Ukraine’s geopolitical vulnerability was laid bare by the Russian invasion. In Brussels, demonstrators waving blue and yellow Ukrainian flags surrounded the headquarters of the European Commission on Sunday in a show of support.

extremely difficult

The war prompted Finland and Sweden to abandon decades of military non-alignment and seek to join the NATO alliance.

However, Turkey is blocking their candidacies and NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday the issue may not be resolved by an alliance summit later this month.

The United States and Europe sent arms and money to help Ukraine halt Russia’s advance, while punishing Moscow with unprecedented economic sanctions.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the attack on Chortkiv destroyed “a large depot of anti-tank missile systems, man-portable air defense systems and shells supplied to the Kyiv regime by the United States and European countries “.

Regional Governor Volodymyr Trush said four missiles fired Saturday night from the Black Sea partially destroyed a military installation in the city, about 140 kilometers (85 miles) from the border with Romania.

In the east, which along with the south has come under the brunt of Russian firepower, Severodonetsk and the neighboring city of Lysychansk have been targeted for weeks as the last areas of the Lugansk region still under control. Ukrainian.

Regional Governor Gaiday said that the Russians, attacking the last remaining bridges of Severodonetsk, wanted to completely cut off the city.

He said Russia was bombing the Azot chemical plant, where around 800 civilians are believed to have taken refuge.

However, Leonid Pasechnik, leader of the pro-Russian Luhansk separatists, accused the Ukrainian battalions of shelling Severodonetsk from the factory.

He told reporters that pro-Russian forces were not applying aggressive pressure ‘because this is a chemical industry facility’, warning of the risk of ‘environmental disaster’ .

Concern eased on Sunday over another unstable facility: Ukraine’s largest nuclear power plant, in Zaporizhzhia. Captured months ago by Russian forces but still operated by Ukrainians, the station stopped transmitting vital safeguards data two weeks ago.

But plant officials working with the International Atomic Energy Agency managed to restore transmission, the IAEA said.

Rafael Grossi, director general of the UN agency, said it still wanted to send inspectors to the factory “as soon as possible”.

Penalties forbidden

Along with physical combat, war is played out through the courts.

Pro-Moscow separatist authorities in the Donetsk region this week sentenced two Britons and a Moroccan to death for fighting with Kyiv.

The sentences sparked outrage in Western countries, but Donetsk separatist leader Denis Pushilin said on Sunday he would not change them.

“They came to Ukraine to kill civilians for money,” he told reporters, calling the punishment “perfectly fair”.

The families of Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner say they have lived in Ukraine since 2018.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian courts sentenced three Russian soldiers to long prison terms in war crimes trials.

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