Russia wants to suffocate Ukrainian twin cities

Russia is trying to take the two provinces of separatist-claimed Donbas, Donetsk and Luhansk, and lock Ukrainian forces inside a pocket on the main eastern front.

Russian forces have taken control of three cities in the Donetsk region, including Svitlodarsk, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told a subsidiary of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty.

“The situation in the Donbas is extremely difficult. All the remaining forces of the Russian army are now concentrated in this region,” Zelenskiy said in a speech late Tuesday. “The occupiers will destroy everything there.”

The Russian Ministry of Defense did not immediately respond to a request for comment after closing time.

The easternmost part of the Ukrainian-occupied Donbas Pocket, the town of Sievierodonetsk on the east bank of the Siverskiy Donets and its twin city of Lysychansk on the west bank, have become a focal point of the struggle. Russian troops advanced from three directions to surround them.

“The enemy has focused its efforts on conducting an offensive to encircle Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk,” said Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Luhansk province, where the two cities are among the last territories occupied by Ukraine.

The Ukrainian army said on Tuesday it had repelled nine Russian attacks in the Donbas, where Moscow forces killed at least 14 civilians using planes, rocket launchers, artillery, tanks, mortars and rockets.

Reuters was unable to immediately confirm the information.

As a sign of Ukraine’s success elsewhere, authorities in the second largest city, Kharkiv, have reopened the underground metro, where thousands of civilians had been protected for months during relentless bombardment.

The reopening came after Ukraine largely drove Russian forces out of artillery range from the northern city, as they had done from the capital Kiev in March.

THIRD WORLD WAR?

Three months after the invasion, Russia still has limited gains for its worst military losses in decades, while large parts of Ukraine have been destroyed in the biggest attack on a European state since 1945.

More than 6.5 million people have fled abroad, countless thousands have been killed and cities laid in ruins.

The war has also led to a growing food shortage and sky-high prices due to sanctions and disruption of supply chains. Both Ukraine and Russia are major exporters of grain and other raw materials.

The head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, accused Russia of using food as a weapon.

Billionaire financier George Soros, who also spoke in Davos, said Russia’s invasion of Ukraine could mark the start of World War III.

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

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who is in prison on Tuesday, praised President Vladimir Putin and portrayed the Kremlin chief as a death row inmate who slaughters the people of both Ukraine and Russia.

“This is a stupid war that your Putin started,” Navalny told a Moscow court of appeal via video link from a correctional penal colony. “This war is built on lies.”

To underscore the global tensions triggered by the war, the United States’ main ally, Japan, launched jets on Tuesday after Russian and Chinese warplanes approached its skies while US President Joe Biden visited Tokyo.

Meanwhile, in a decision that could bring Russia closer to the brink of bankruptcy, the Biden administration has announced that it will not renew a waiver that expired on Wednesday, which would allow Russia to pay US bondholders.

Russia had been allowed to continue paying interest and principal to avoid defaulting on its national debt.

Russian lawmakers have given their initial approval to a draft law that would allow Russian entities to acquire foreign companies that have left the country in opposition to Moscow’s actions in Ukraine, a government online portal revealed.[nL5N2XG5UG}[nL5N2XG5UG}[nL5N2XG5UG}[nL5N2XG5UG}

On Monday, Starbucks Corp. the last Western brand to announce its withdrawal from Russia following a similar decision by McDonald’s. The hamburger chain’s Golden Arches brand was dropped near Moscow on Monday.

LONG-TERM CONFLICT

Senior Russian officials on Tuesday suggested in their comments that the war, which Russia calls a “special operation”, could be extended.

Nikolai Patrushev, head of Putin’s Security Council, said Russia would fight as long as it takes to eradicate “Nazism” in Ukraine, justifying the war that the West has called unfounded.

Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia was deliberately moving slowly to avoid civilian casualties.

Zelenskiy dismissed such statements as “absolutely unreal”.

In Kharkiv, hundreds of people lived underground in trains and stations when authorities on Tuesday asked them to provide space.

“Everyone is insanely scared because there are still shelling,” said Nataliia Lopanska, who had lived on a subway train for most of the war.

Russian shelling continued in the city and the wider area, said Regional Governor Oleh Sinehubov.

The fighting in the Donbas follows Russia’s biggest victory in months: the surrender last week of Ukraine’s garrison in the port city of Mariupol following a siege that killed tens of thousands of civilians, Kyiv said.

Petro Andryushchenko, an aide to the Ukrainian mayor of Mariupol, who now operates outside the city, said the dead were found in the rubble.

About 200 decomposing corpses were buried under the rubble in a basement of a tall building, he said. The residents had refused to pick them up and the Russian authorities had left the place.

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