It is in this city that the “fate” of the Donbass region is being played out, according to Volodymyr Zelensky. In Severodonetsk, in the east of the country, Ukrainian soldiers are fighting one of the “most difficult battles” since the start of the war to resist Russian forces, the Ukrainian president explained in a video released Wednesday evening. However, according to the governor of the Lugansk region, Serguiï Gaïdaï, the Russians now control a large part of this strategic city. “There are bombardments everywhere, 24 hours a day” and Russia is concentrating all its forces in the region, he stressed.

For Russia, getting its hands on Severodonetsk would be decisive in order to conquer the entire vast coal basin of Donbass, already partly held by pro-Russian separatists since 2014. “In many respects, the fate of our Donbass decides there,” said Volodymyr Zelensky. Last week, Severodonetsk seemed on the verge of falling into the hands of the Russian army, but the Ukrainian troops counter-attacked and managed to hold their ground, despite their numerical inferiority. However, Russian forces are regaining ground.

The neighboring city of Lysytchansk is entirely controlled by the Ukrainian army but is under “powerful and chaotic” bombardment, said Sergei Gaïdaï, accusing the Russian forces of “deliberately” targeting hospitals and centers for the distribution of humanitarian aid. Several thousand people still live in Severodonetsk and Lyssytchansk, mostly elderly people, people taking care of them or those who cannot afford to go elsewhere.

The remains of journalist Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, killed in Ukraine, arrived around 3 a.m. this Thursday in France and were welcomed by members of his family, relatives and the Minister of Culture Rima Abdul Malak. Aged 32, Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff had been working for BFMTV for six years and was on his second assignment in Ukraine, as an image reporter (JRI), when he was killed on May 30 by a shrapnel. A moment of contemplation took place on the tarmac of Le Bourget airport, in front of his coffin draped in black. A tribute will be paid to him on Friday at 6:30 p.m. Place de la République in Paris, at the call of Reporters Without Borders (RSF). His family, friends and colleagues will be present.