Ukraine claims successes in the south and Donbass

Ukrainian forces have reclaimed territory in the south while repelling Russian attacks in the hotly contested Donbass, the Ukrainian military said on Thursday.

“Due to the successful actions of the Ukrainian defenders, the Russian enemy has lost control of several settlements on the border of the Mykolaiv and Kherson regions,” the Ukrainian military said in its daily war update. “Eleven enemy attacks have been repelled in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts in the past 24 hours.”

Donetsk and Luhansk are home to separatists and were recognized as republics by Russia days before war broke out 10 weeks ago.

Air raid sirens sounded in cities across the country on Wednesday night and attacks were reported near the capital Kyiv; in Cherkasy and Dnipro in central Ukraine; and in Zaporizhzhia in the southeast. In Dnipro, authorities said a railway facility was hit.

Defense Ministry spokesman Major General Igor Konashenkov said the attacks on railway infrastructure were aimed at disrupting the delivery of Western arms to Ukraine. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu complained that the West was “loading Ukraine with weapons”.

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Latest developments:

►Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has expressed support for Russia in the war and whose country has been used as a staging ground for Russian troops, said he did not expect the offensive Russian “draws on”.

►More than 300 civilians were evacuated from Mariupol and four other towns to Ukrainian-held Zaporizhzhia, the United Nations said.

►Russian troops broke into the territory of the Azovstal steel plant, Ukraine’s last stronghold in the besieged city of Mariupol, the commander of the main force defending the steel plant said.

Kherson shows signs of long-term Russian control

The Ukrainian city of Kherson is showing signs that Russia could be in charge in the long run. Russian currency is introduced and reports are mounting that a sham referendum is being held to legitimize Russian annexation, according to some locals. Military checkpoints are everywhere. Kherson, a southern city of about 280,000 people and home to the shipbuilding industry on the Dnieper, became the first major Ukrainian city to fall to Russian forces on March 2. Since then, Russian actions to cement control and warnings from U.S. and Ukrainian officials of possible annexation plans have heightened fear and uncertainty in the province’s strategic capital.

“If we don’t go now…we never go,” Danets, 22, told USA TODAY by phone from Romania on Monday, just over two weeks after he got away in a car. Learn more here.

Chris Kenning

Belarus announces the start of military exercises

Belarus announced it was starting military exercises on Wednesday, insisting it had no intention of threatening its neighbours. Russia used Belarus as a starting point in its invasion, and the US government wanted citizens not to travel to Belarus and closed its embassy there due to its involvement in the invasion. The military drills will assess the readiness and capability of the country’s armed forces, as well as the army’s ability to operate in “uncharted terrain in a rapidly changing situation”, the Belarusian Defense Ministry said.

He said the maneuvers “do not threaten the European community in general and neighboring countries in particular”.

Contributor: The Associated Press

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