Kyiv (Reuters) – Kyiv was shaken by several explosions in the early hours of Sunday, the mayor of the Ukrainian capital said, a day after officials said troops had recaptured part of the city from the camp. Battle of Sievierodonetsk in a counter-offensive against Russia.
“Several explosions in the Darnytskyi and Dniprovskyi districts of the capital,” Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko wrote in the Telegram messaging application. “Services are already working on the site. More detailed information later.”
A Reuters witness saw smoke in the city after the blasts.
Ukraine’s claim to Sievierodonetsk could not be independently verified, and Moscow said its own forces were gaining ground. But it was the first time Kyiv had claimed to have launched a major counterattack on the small industrial city after days of ceding ground.
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Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said street fighting continued on Saturday, with both sides exchanging artillery fire.
“The situation is tense, complicated,” he told national television, saying there was a shortage of food, fuel and medicine. “Our military is doing everything possible to drive the enemy out of the city.”
Russia has concentrated its forces in Sievierodonetsk in recent weeks for one of the largest ground battles of the war, with Moscow seemingly betting on its campaign to capture one of the two eastern provinces it is claiming on behalf of separatist representatives. .
Both sides claim to have caused heavy casualties in the fighting, a battle that, according to military experts, could determine which side has the impetus for a prolonged war of attrition in the coming months.
In the diplomatic arena, Kyiv has reprimanded French President Emmanuel Macron for saying it was important not to “humiliate” Moscow.
“We must not humiliate Russia so that on the day the fighting ends we can build an exit ramp by diplomatic means,” Macron told regional newspapers in an interview published on Saturday, adding that he was “convinced that France’s role is be a mediator. ” power “.
Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, tweeted in response: “Calls to prevent the humiliation of Russia can only humiliate France and all other countries that demand it.
“Because it is Russia that is being humiliated. It is better for us all to focus on how to put Russia in its place. This will bring peace and save lives.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy delivered a harsh message: “The terrible consequences of this war can be stopped at any time … if a person in Moscow simply gives the order,” he said in an apparent reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “And the fact that such an order does not yet exist is obviously a humiliation for everyone.”
‘NO POINT’ IN NEGOTIATIONS
Putin will talk about the war in an interview on national television on Sunday. In a brief statement issued on Saturday, he said that Russian anti-aircraft forces have shot down dozens of Ukrainian weapons and “are breaking them as if they were new.”
Ukraine says it aims to push Russian forces back as far as possible on the battlefield, with advanced missile systems compromised in recent days by the United States and Britain to turn the war in its favor.
Asked about Macron’s mediation offer on national television, Zelenskiy’s adviser, Mykhailo Podolyak, said it “made no sense to hold negotiations” until Ukraine received all the promised weapons, strengthened its position and pushed forces. Russians “back as far as possible on the borders of Ukraine.” .
Moscow has said Western weapons will pour “fuel into the fire,” but will not change the course of what it calls a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of nationalists.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said its troops were forcing the Ukrainians to retreat across the Siverskiy Donets River to Lysychansk on the opposite bank.
Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk province, which includes Sievierodonetsk, said Ukrainian forces that previously controlled only 30 percent of the city had launched a counterattack, recovering another 20 percent.
Gaidai said the Russians were blowing up bridges across the river to prevent Ukraine from providing military reinforcements and delivering aid to civilians in Sievierodonetsk.
“The Russian army, as we understand it, is launching all its efforts, all its reservations in this direction,” Gaidai said on a live television broadcast.
Tens of thousands are believed to have died, millions have been uprooted and the global economy has been disrupted in a war that marked its 100th day on Friday.
Ukraine is one of the world’s leading sources of cereals and cooking oil, but these supplies were cut short in large part by Russia’s closure of its Black Sea ports, with more than 20 million tonnes of grain stuck to silos.
(Report by Natalia Zinets and Lidia Kelly; written by Raju Gopalakrishnan; edited by William Mallard)
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