Ukraine fears repeat of Mariupol horrors elsewhere in Donbas – New York Daily News

KRAMATORSK, Ukraine (AP) – Moscow-backed separatists attacked Ukraine’s eastern industrial region of Donbass on Friday, claiming the capture of a railway hub as concerns grow that besieged cities in the region will suffer the same. horrors experienced by the people of Mariupol in previous weeks. until the capture of the port.

Ukrainian officials renewed their calls for more sophisticated weaponry provided by the West. Without it, they said, Ukrainian forces would not be able to stop Russia’s offensive.

Friday’s fighting focused on two key cities: Sievierodonetsk and neighboring Lysychansk. They are the last areas under Ukrainian control in Luhansk, one of the two provinces that make up the Donbas and where Russian-backed separatists have controlled some territory for eight years. Authorities say 1,500 people in Sievierodonetsk have died since the start of the war just over three months ago.

“Massive artillery bombardment does not stop, day and night,” Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksandr Striuk told the Associated Press. “The city is being systematically destroyed – 90% of the buildings in the city are damaged.”

Striuk described conditions in Sievierodonetsk as reminiscent of the battle for Mariupol, located in Donbas’s other province, Donetsk. Now in ruins, the port city was constantly bombed by Russian forces in a nearly three-month siege that ended last week when Russia claimed its capture. More than 20,000 of its civilians are feared to be dead.

Before the war, Sievierodonetsk was home to around 100,000 people. Some 12,000 to 13,000 remain in the city, Striuk said, huddled in shelters and largely isolated from the rest of Ukraine. At least 1,500 people died because of the war, now in its 93rd day. The number includes people killed by bombings or fires caused by Russian missile attacks, as well as those who died from shrapnel injuries, untreated illnesses, lack of medicine or trapped under rubble, the mayor said.

An attack was underway on Friday in the northeastern neighborhood of the city, where Russian reconnaissance and sabotage groups tried to capture the Mir Hotel and the surrounding area, Striuk said.

Insights into Russia’s Donbas strategy can be found in Mariupol, where Moscow is consolidating its grip through measures that include state-controlled broadcast programming and revised school curricula, according to an analysis by the Institute for the Study of War. a Washington think tank.

General Phillip Breedlove, former head of the US European Command to NATO, said Friday during a panel set up by the Washington-based Middle East Institute that Russia appears to have “once again adjusted its objectives and , fearfully, now it looks like they are trying to consolidate and impose the land they have instead of focusing on expanding it.”

But the relentless attacks on the Donbas also indicated Russia’s desire to expand its dominance there. Ukrainian analysts said Russian forces took advantage of delays in Western arms shipments to step up their offensive in the country.

This aggressive impulse could backfire, however, by seriously depleting Russia’s arsenal. Echoing an assessment by the British Defense Ministry, military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said Russia is deploying 50-year-old T-62 tanks, “which means the world’s second army has run out of modernized equipment.”

Russian-backed rebels said on Friday they had seized Lyman, Donetsk’s major rail hub north of two more major cities still under Ukrainian control. Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych acknowledged the loss late on Thursday, although a Ukrainian Defense Ministry spokesman reported on Friday that its soldiers had slammed Russian attempts to expel them completely.

As Ukraine’s hopes of stopping the Russian advance faded, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba called on Western nations for heavy weapons, saying it was the only area where Russia had a clear advantage.

“Without artillery, without multiple rocket launch systems, we won’t be able to push them back,” he said.

South of Sievierodonetsk, volunteers hoped to evacuate 100 people from a smaller town. It was a painstaking process: many of the evacuees from Bakhmut were elderly or infirm and had to be carried out of apartment buildings on soft stretchers and wheelchairs.

Minibuses and vans passed through town, catching dozens for the first leg of a long journey west.

“Bakhmut is a high-risk area right now,” said Mark Poppert, an American volunteer working with the British charity RefugiEase. “We are trying to get as many people out as we can.”

In his nightly address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy had some harsh words for the European Union, which has not agreed to a sixth round of sanctions that includes an embargo on Russian oil. Hungary, one of Moscow’s closest allies in the EU, is blocking the deal.

Zelenskyy said Russia’s offensive in the Donbas could leave their communities in ashes, and accused Moscow of pursuing “an obvious policy of genocide” through mass deportations and killings of civilians.

On Thursday, Russian bombing of Kharkiv, a city in the northeast, killed nine people, including a father and his 5-month-old baby, the president said. AP reporters saw the bodies of at least two dead and four wounded at a subway station where the victims were taken.

To the north, neighboring Belarus – used by Russia as a platform before the invasion – announced on Friday that it was sending troops to the Ukrainian border.

Some European leaders have sought dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin on how to alleviate the global food crisis, exacerbated by Ukraine’s inability to ship millions of tonnes of grain and other agricultural products.

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said there was no progress during his Thursday conversation with Putin.

“If you’re asking me if there are openings for peace, the answer is no,” Draghi told reporters.

Moscow has sought to shift blame for the food crisis to the West, urging its leaders to lift existing sanctions.

Putin told Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer on Friday that Ukraine should mine the Black Sea to allow for safe transport, according to a Kremlin reading of their conversation; Russia and Ukraine exchanged blame for mines near Ukraine’s ports.

Nehammer’s office said the two leaders had also discussed a prisoner swap and that Putin had indicated efforts to organize one would be “intensified”.

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