The 84th day of the war, marked since the beginning of the Russian invasion on February 24 by very many civilian victims, is also that of the start in kyiv of the trial of a Russian soldier tried for a war crime.
Here is an update on the situation based on information from AFP journalists on site, official Ukrainian and Russian statements, Western sources, analysts and international organizations.
The war is entering a “prolonged phase”, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Tuesday. On the front line in the Donetsk region, seven people were killed and six injured according to kyiv.
In the neighboring region of Lugansk, four people were killed on Wednesday, said its governor Serguiï Gaïdaï, also referring to the discovery of two bodies in the village of Pryvillia.
Russian forces are trying to break through near Popasna and towards Severodonetsk, one of the major cities in the region under Ukrainian control, he added, denouncing “the intensification of shelling on the civilian population”.
Russian forces are conducting “offensives all along the line of contact”, warned the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense.
The American Institute of War Studies (ISW) reports an intensification of artillery fire on Ukrainian border installations in the Chernihiv and Sumy regions in recent weeks, including 70 strikes on Tuesday alone.
The institute evokes limited advances of Russian forces in the Donbass and the preparation of a big battle for Severodonetsk. Russian forces could “redouble their efforts” for this battle, “in part to forestall emerging criticism” in Russia over the mistakes made during the operation in Ukraine.
– South –
On the Azovstal site in Mariupol, “959 (Ukrainian) fighters, including 80 wounded, have taken themselves prisoner” for two days, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Wednesday, information not commented on by kyiv at midday.
The Russian army is concentrating its efforts “on blocking our units near Azovstal”, with artillery fire and air strikes, the Ukrainian general staff reported.
“In the Odessa region, another missile was launched from the waters of the Black Sea. (…) According to preliminary information, there is no significant destruction and casualties,” a statement said. Southern district official reproduced by Ukrainian media.
– Justice –
Ukrainian justice began Wednesday its first trial for war crimes since the entry of troops from Moscow on its territory, that of a Russian soldier accused of having killed an unarmed civilian.
The trial, which should soon be followed by several others, will be a test for the Ukrainian judicial system, at a time when international institutions are also carrying out their own investigations into the abuses committed by Russian troops.
The Kremlin claims to have no information on the procedure.
– Negotiations stalled –
The Kremlin accused Ukraine of refusing to negotiate. “The negotiations are not moving forward and we see a complete lack of will from the Ukrainian negotiators to continue this process,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
The day before, kyiv had held the Russians responsible for the suspension of the talks.
Russia announced Wednesday to expel 34 French diplomats, in retaliation for the expulsions in April by France of 41 Russians. Paris “deplored” this decision. 24 Italian and 27 Spanish diplomats suffered the same fate.
Sweden and Finland submitted their applications for NATO membership on Wednesday, a direct consequence of the invasion of Ukraine.
Turkey opposes their integration and could block the process, but consultations are underway to try to overcome Ankara’s opposition. “We hope to conclude quickly,” said the secretary general of the Atlantic alliance, Jens Stoltenberg.
– Tens of thousands dead –
There is no overall assessment of the civilian victims of the conflict. In Mariupol alone, the Ukrainian authorities spoke several weeks ago of 20,000 deaths. And Ukrainian investigators claim to have identified “more than 8,000 cases” of alleged war crimes.
On the military level, the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense estimates Russian losses at 28,300 men since the start of the invasion on February 24. This is notoriously more than according to Western sources. The Kremlin has just admitted “significant losses”.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said around 2,500 to 3,000 Ukrainian soldiers had been killed and some 10,000 injured. No independent and reliable figures are available.
– Displaced persons and refugees –
Ukraine has seen more than six million of its own flee its territory, of which more than half – 3.4 million – to Poland, according to the High Commissioner for Refugees (HCR) in Geneva, which notes however that the flow of these departures dried up considerably over the weeks and even reversed.
The overall balance, however, still remains largely negative – with 6.3 million departures for 1.85 million returns, according to border guards.