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Russia pounds Ukraine's east as town buries dead in mass grave

Commodities May 25, 2022 05:54PM ET
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4/4 © Reuters. Local women walk along a street while Ukrainian servicemen patrol an area, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in the town of Kurakhove, in Donetsk region, Ukraine May 20, 2022. Picture taken May 20, 2022. REUTERS/Anna Kudriavtseva 2/4

By Pavel Polityuk and Max Hunder

KYIV/KRAMATORSK, Ukraine (Reuters) - Russian forces on Wednesday pounded Ukrainian-held twin cities in the Donbas region that is now the focus of the three-month war, threatening to shut off the last main escape route for civilians trapped in the path of their advance.

After failing to seize Ukraine's capital Kyiv or its second city Kharkiv, Russia is trying to take full control of the Donbas, comprised of two eastern provinces Moscow claims on behalf of separatists.

Russia has poured thousands of troops into the region, attacking from three sides in an attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces holding out in the city of Sievierodonetsk and its twin Lysychansk. Their fall would leave the whole of Luhansk province under Russian control, a key Kremlin war aim.

Police in Lysychansk are collecting bodies of people killed in order to bury them in mass graves, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said. Some 150 people have been buried in a mass grave in one Lysychansk district, he added.

Oleksiy Arestovych, an adviser to Ukraine's president, said Russia's "army is having some tactical success which is threatening to become an operational success in the direction of Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk."

Sievierodonetsk and Bakhmut, a town to the southeast, were in danger of being encircled, Arestovych said. "(It's) possible that settlements will be abandoned, it's possible we will have heavy losses."

Families of people buried in mass graves will be able to carry out a reburial after the war, and police are issuing documents enabling Ukrainians to secure death certificates for loved ones, Gaidai said.

The main road out of Sievierodonetsk was being shelled, but humanitarian aid was still getting in, Gaidai said in an earlier statement. Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russian troops "heavily outnumber us" in some parts of the east.

Reuters was unable to independently confirm the battlefield reports.

As Moscow seeks to solidify its grip on the territory it has seized, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree simplifying the process for residents of newly captured districts to acquire Russian citizenship and passports.

SHELLING

A missile blasted a crater in a railway track and damaged nearby buildings in Pokrovsk, a Ukrainian-held Donbas city that has become a major hub for supplies and evacuations.

In Kramatorsk, nearer the front line, streets were largely deserted, while in Sloviansk further west, many residents took advantage of what Ukraine said was a break in the Russian assault to leave.

"My house was bombed, I have nothing," said Vera Safronova, seated in a train carriage among the evacuees.

Further north, two people were killed and seven wounded by Russian artillery shelling of the town of Balakliya in the Kharkiv region, an aide to its governor said on Facebook (NASDAQ:FB).

Russia is also targeting southern Ukraine, where officials said shelling had killed a civilian and damaged scores of houses in Zaporozhzhia and missiles had destroyed an industrial facility in Kryviy Rih.

Moscow has blockaded ships from southern Ukraine that would normally export Ukrainian grain and sunflower oil through the Black Sea, pushing up prices globally. The African Union urged the two countries on Wednesday to unblock exports of grains and fertiliser to avoid widespread famine.

Russia has blamed Western sanctions for the food crisis. It said on Wednesday it was ready to provide a humanitarian corridor for vessels carrying food to leave Ukraine but wanted sanctions to be lifted in return.

Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Moscow of using "blackmail" tactics to secure a relaxation of sanctions.

A senior United Nations official is due to visit Moscow in the coming days to discuss reviving fertiliser exports.

ECONOMIC SQUEEZE

With its invasion now into its fourth month, Russia still has only limited gains to show for its worst military losses in decades, while much of Ukraine has suffered devastation as Moscow steps up strikes to offset its slow progress.

The Russian parliament scrapped the upper age limit for contractual service in the military on Wednesday, highlighting the need to replace lost troops.

In a late night video address, Zelenskiy, commenting on the new Russian enlistment rules, said: "(They) no longer have enough young men, but they still have the will to fight. It will still take time to crush this will."

Western nations have imposed severe sanctions on Russia.

The United States pushed Russia closer to the brink of a historic debt default on Wednesday by not extending its licence to pay bondholders. That waiver has allowed Moscow to keep up government debt payments till now.

The European Commission proposed on Wednesday to make breaking EU sanctions against Russia a crime.

The EU also said it hoped to agree sanctions on Russian oil before the next meeting of EU leaders.

But Russia, for now at least, is not short of money. Oil and gas revenues stood at $28 billion in April alone thanks to high energy prices.

Putin on Wednesday ordered the government to hike old-age pensions and the minimum wage by 10%, while stating that not all economic problems were linked to what he calls Russia's "special military operation" in Ukraine.

Zelenskiy said this week the conflict could only be ended with direct talks between him and Putin, but Ukraine's closest allies say they fear some Western nations might push Kyiv to give up land for peace.

Italy and Hungary want the EU to call explicitly at a leaders' summit next week for a ceasefire in Ukraine and peace talks with Russia, diplomats say.

Estonia's prime minister, Kaja Kallas, said Ukraine should not be forced into accepting a bad deal.

"It is much more dangerous giving in to Putin than provoking him," she said. "All these seemingly small concessions to the aggressor lead to big wars. We have made this mistake already three times: Georgia, Crimea and Donbas."

Russia pounds Ukraine's east as town buries dead in mass grave
 

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Comments (4)
Reginald Bowler
Reginald Bowler May 25, 2022 12:02PM ET
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So what will the outcome of this war be? No discussion for now, just what you think will happen.
Reginald Bowler
Reginald Bowler May 25, 2022 12:02PM ET
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No-one prepared to comment? It looks as though the war will continue until Russia has achieved its objective, which may be to take Luhansk, Donetsk, Zaporizhia, Kherson, parts of Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk, permanently, and stay there.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright May 25, 2022 8:12AM ET
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The Russian people had better wake up to the atrocities being committed in their name. This unprovoked and unjustified attack is a barbarous attempt to violently impose Putin's will on a free and innocent people who's self determination Putin is attempting to revoke through the intimidation of slaughter. It will not succeed and the longer Russian people allow this to continue, the greater the eventual toll for Russia.
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi May 25, 2022 8:12AM ET
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most of Russians believe Ukraine is run by na*zis, so no they don't really care about civilian casualties in Ukraine.........to be honest Americans didn't really care about civilian casualties in Iraq that much neither
Palwinder Nagra
Palwinder Nagra May 24, 2022 12:00PM ET
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nobody is innocent in this war. Every country bears responsibility that led to this. The west, the Ukrainians themselves and russia. But mostly the west which now tries to wash its ****hands
Brad Albright
Brad Albright May 24, 2022 12:00PM ET
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Let me guess; you are from India where blaming the victim is part of the culture.
Tre Hsi
Tre Hsi May 24, 2022 12:00PM ET
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"nobody is innocent in this war."  -- we will remember this logic the next time China bombs another Indian military post
Mart Bab
Rubberduck1973 May 24, 2022 2:04AM ET
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Hehehe. “ The west has taken a dictator position”? Well Russia has taken a dictators action end thinks the west will do nothing? Murderous regime. Nazisme. That’s what Russia is and has been trough history. A pity we all shot our eyes only to open them now.
 
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