Heavy fighting is still raging in eastern Ukraine for control of the Donbass region where Russian forces are threatening the large city of Severodonetsk, whose suburbs are beginning to be occupied by the invader. After the conquest of the locality of Lyman, Severodonetsk is another key objective for Vladimir Putin. Civilians find themselves on the front lines again, as at least 242 children have died since the start of the Russian invasion and a third of Ukraine’s total population has been displaced.
In his video address of Saturday May 28, Volodymyr Zelensky recalled that the situation was “complicated in the Donbass and in the Kharkiv region, in the east of the country”. The main areas of struggle on the front are still Severodonetsk, Lyssychansk, Bakhmout, Popasna and other cities where the Russian offensive is concentrated,” said the Ukrainian president, before assuring that the defense was holding up. is difficult there. And I am grateful to all those who resist this onslaught of the occupiers”, he added. The Russian vice is tightening in the mining basin of Donbass, in particular around Severodonetsk, where “the enemy carried out assault operations,” according to a report from the Ukrainian army general staff released on Sunday.
“Russia has used all its means to seize Severodonetsk or to prevent any communication between the region and the rest of Ukraine,” the governor of the Lugansk region said on Saturday. “Next week will be very tough”, he admitted, considering however that the Russian forces “will not be able to achieve everything they plan”. He also warned of the worsening health situation in the city, where around 13,000 inhabitants are still present.
Vladimir Putin spoke on the phone on Saturday with his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz to discuss the Russian offensive in Ukraine and the export of cereals, while a global food crisis is brewing. A major exporter of cereals, particularly corn and wheat, Ukraine is seeing its production blocked due to the fighting. For its part, Russia, another cereal power, cannot sell its production and its fertilizers because of Western sanctions affecting the financial and logistics sectors. The two countries produce a third of the world’s wheat.
“Russia is ready to help find options for unhindered export of grain, including Ukrainian grain from ports on the Black Sea,” said the Russian president, according to a statement from the Kremlin. Putin has “undertaken that Russia will not take advantage of the opening of the mine belt set up to protect Ukrainian ports, in order to allow the export of grain by ship, to carry out offensive actions”, assured the German chancellery for its part, specifying that the three leaders agreed on the “central role” that the United Nations must play to guarantee exports.
During this 80-minute interview, Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz called on the Russian president “for serious direct negotiations with the Ukrainian president and for a diplomatic solution to the conflict”. They also asked him to release the 2,500 Ukrainian fighters who had entrenched themselves in the Azovstal steelworks in Mariupol and were now prisoners of the Russians. For his part, Putin denounced “the dangerous nature” of Western arms deliveries to Ukraine, warning against “further destabilization”.
More than eight million Ukrainians have moved inside their country, according to a joint report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Added to this are 6.6 million who have fled abroad.
“Newly arrived refugees often come from areas heavily affected by fighting,” said a UNHCR spokeswoman. “They often arrive in a state of distress and anxiety, having left family members behind.”
In a message posted on the Telegram network, Ukraine’s prosecutor general’s office says at least 242 children have been killed and 440 others injured since Russia began its February 24 invasion of Ukraine. These figures do not take into account the potential victims present in the areas where the fighting is still ongoing and in the territories occupied by the Russian army.
Ukraine’s armed forces also accuse the Russian authorities in power in Crimea of ordering hospitals to stop accepting civilians at the entrance in order to make room for Russian soldiers.