“My main advice: evacuate!” Governor of the Donestk region Pavlo Kyrylenko told residents of the city of Sloviansk on Tuesday evening, adding that “during the week there was not a single day without bombardment.
He had announced a few hours earlier two dead and seven wounded in strikes which notably targeted the city market.
Rouslan, a shopkeeper interviewed by AFP two hours after the bombardment, struggled to hold back tears as he watched his shop burn. He denounced a “genocide” perpetrated by Russian forces, assuring that such bombardments were aimed at “scaring people, so that they flee” the city.
“Once again, the Russians are intentionally targeting places where civilians congregate. This is terrorism pure and simple,” denounced Mr. Kyrylenko.
With the fall of Lysytchansk on Sunday, Russian forces control almost all of the Lugansk region and are now seeking to do the same in Donetsk to thus occupy all of Donbass, which pro-Russian separatists had partially controlled since 2014.
“Heavy fighting is taking place (…) near Lysytchansk”, said Tuesday evening the governor of the Lugansk region Serguiï Gaïdaï. Russian forces are “constantly trying to build passages to transfer even more material” to the Donetsk region.
– Accusations of torture –
Sloviansk, which had 100,000 inhabitants before the war, and Kramatorsk then became the new key points of the fighting.
On Tuesday, the Russian troops were about ten kilometers from Siversk, which they have been shelling for several days, and therefore about fifty kilometers from Sloviansk.
Moscow also announced on Tuesday that it had launched an investigation into the torture that its soldiers, captured by Ukrainian forces and released during an exchange of prisoners with kyiv, say they suffered.
Ukraine and Russia, which have carried out several prisoner exchanges, accuse each other of ill-treatment and torture of prisoners.
The Russian Defense Ministry also accused “Ukrainian nationalists” in the Donetsk region on Tuesday evening of preparing “a provocation with the use of toxic substances”: large quantities of chlorine brought to a mined filtration station, according to the ministry.
He added that the Ukrainian army used chemical infrastructure to base its men and weapons there, creating “the preconditions for accidents that could lead to the death of thousands of civilians”.
It is in this context that a two-day international conference in Lugano (Switzerland) ended on Tuesday evening, organized to try to draw the outlines of the reconstruction of Ukraine, the cost of which kyiv estimates at 750 billion dollars.
In a statement adopted on Tuesday evening, allied countries, international institutions and the private sector “are fully committed to supporting Ukraine along its journey”, calling for a “transparent and accountable recovery process”.
The use of these billions of dollars is worrying in a country crippled by corruption.
– “Intolerable” –
In its 2021 report on corruption, the NGO Transparency International ranked Ukraine 122nd out of 180 countries, and Russia 136th.
“When we say we are ready to go fast, we really mean fast,” wanted to reassure Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Chmygal, who came to Lugano.
kyiv is also calling on its allies to put pressure on shipping companies to stop transporting goods for Russia and helping it to sell its products.
The Zhibek Zholy, a freighter flying the Russian flag, has been anchored for five days off Turkey, in the Black Sea. Ukraine, which accuses Russia of stealing its wheat crops, says the ship is carrying 7,000 tons obtained illegally. A Turkish diplomatic source told AFP on Tuesday that an “inspection” was underway on board.
On the humanitarian level, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet denounced on Tuesday the “intolerable” civilian toll of the conflict (nearly 5,000 confirmed civilians killed, including 335 children, an estimate that is undoubtedly well in- below the actual balance sheet) and the numerous human rights violations targeting the population.
“In the name of each victim of this absurd war, the executions, torture and arbitrary detentions must end,” she told the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
In Brussels, the thirty member countries of NATO launched on Tuesday the process of ratification for the accessions of Sweden and Finland, which will allow the Alliance to organize a united line of defense from the Arctic to the Mediterranean. in the face of Russian intrigues, but will also depend on the goodwill of Ankara.
For its part, Latvia announced Tuesday evening the restoration of compulsory military service in the face of the Russian threat.