“We must break” the enemy, launched the head of state.
Here is an update on the situation on the 132nd day of the war based on information from AFP journalists on the spot, official Ukrainian and Russian statements, Western sources, analysts and international organizations.
At least two people were killed and seven others injured in a bombardment on Sloviansk, the next target for Russian forces, authorities said on Tuesday.
“Sloviansk! Massive bombardment of the city. The center, the north. Everyone remains sheltered”, wrote on Facebook Vadim Liakh, the mayor of this city of 100,000 inhabitants before the war.
After the fall of Lysytchansk, the urgency for Ukraine is to contain the Russian advance towards the west and two major cities of the neighboring region of Donetsk: Sloviansk and Kramatorsk.
According to the governor of the Donetsk region, Pavlo Kirilenko, 10 people – including two children – died on Sunday in Russian strikes in Sloviansk and its surroundings.
In Siversk, between Lyssytchansk and Sloviansk, the Ukrainian soldiers seemed on Tuesday to want to hold a line of defense between this locality and Bakhmout, further south.
The Ukrainians “probably withdrew largely in good order (from Lysytchansk and Severodonetsk), in application of an existing plan”, estimates the British Ministry of Defence, which considers it “realistic” that they settle on a line of more easily defensible front.
The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) notes for its part that the Russians have “continued their offensives east of Bakhmout to prepare to advance towards Bakhmout and Siversk”.
On Monday evening, the Ukrainian army reported repelled Russian assault attempts in the Kharkiv region, Ukraine’s second largest city. Three civilians died there in shelling that occurred before dawn on Monday, according to local authorities.
– South –
A Russian official from the powerful security services (FSB) took over the government of the Ukrainian region of Kherson, occupied by Russian forces, on Tuesday. Sergei Elisseyev was until then first deputy to the head of government of the Russian region of Kaliningrad (north-west).
“Russia is here forever,” said a former Ukrainian MP who moved to Moscow, Alexei Kovalev, who survived an assassination attempt in late June.
But fighting continues throughout the region, with the Black Sea ports at stake in particular. The Ukrainians continue to counter-attack and regain ground, underlines former Australian general Mick Ryan, for whom the southern front is the most important of the conflict on the strategic level.
The 30 member countries of NATO on Tuesday began the process of ratification for the accessions of Sweden and Finland. “At 32, we will be even stronger (…) at a time when we are facing the most serious security crisis for decades”, underlined the Secretary General of the Atlantic Alliance, Jens Stoltenberg.
“We are not planning to have an additional presence in the two countries, they have formidable national forces. They are able to defend themselves,” its deputy secretary general, Mircea Geoana, told AFP.
– Tortures –
Russia has said it is investigating alleged torture of soldiers captured by Ukrainian forces and then released in a prisoner swap.
“The Russian Investigative Committee verifies the facts of inhuman treatment of Russian soldiers prisoners of Ukraine,” said this powerful body responsible for criminal investigations.
Moscow and kyiv carried out several exchanges of prisoners of war. The latest dates back to June 29 and concerned 144 Ukrainians and as many Russians.
President Zelensky said on Tuesday that Belarus, an ally of Moscow, would not go to war. “We believe that Belarus will not be drawn into this war, but there are provocations and they will continue,” he said.
– Blocked cereals –
A cargo ship flying the Russian flag, at the center of a diplomatic battle between kyiv and Moscow, remained anchored off Turkey in the Black Sea on Tuesday for the fifth consecutive day, AFP noted.
Ukraine, which accuses Russia of stealing its wheat crops, says the Zhibek Zholy, which left Thursday from the Ukrainian port of Berdiansk, under Russian occupation, is loaded with 7,000 tonnes of grain obtained illegally.
A Turkish diplomatic source told AFP that an “inspection” was underway on board.
– Tens of thousands dead –
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday castigated the “intolerable” civilian toll of the conflict, with nearly 5,000 confirmed civilian casualties, including 335 children.
The figure is probably greatly underestimated. For the city of Mariupol (southeast), which fell in May after a terrible siege, kyiv had mentioned some 20,000 dead but without providing any evidence.
On the military level, Western security sources are now talking about 15,000 to 20,000 Russian soldiers killed. Ukrainian forces are losing around 100 soldiers every day, according to kyiv.
No independent statistics are available.
– Displaced or refugee Ukrainians –
More than six million Ukrainians are internally displaced, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
They join the approximately 5.5 million Ukrainians registered as refugees in other European states since the start of the invasion on February 24.