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kyiv: Ukraine claimed on Sunday that it had recaptured “half” of Severodonetsk and was making advances in the main city of Donbass under heavy fire from Russian troops, as Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited frontlines in the region to support his army.

In Severodonetsk, the Ukrainian army assured us that they were doing more than just defending their own strength and that they were regaining their territory. “Half the city is under the control of our defenders,” assured the governor of the Lugansk region, Sergei Gaïda, in an interview broadcast on social networks, noting that they were “developing”.

We should expect, he added, citing the interception of communications from the Russian command, an intensification of the Russian offensive to capture the city “before June 10”.

“We hope, in the near future, all the reserves they have access to, all the machines, all the troops, will be used to achieve” this goal, assured the governor.

For Russia, taking control of the city would prove decisive in full control of the Donbass coal fields, which have been partially held by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

Ukrainian resistance in Severodonetsk “is likely to continue to draw the attention of Russian troops to the Lugansk region and therefore leave vulnerabilities in Russian defense efforts in the Kharkiv region and along the southern axis”, analyzed on Sunday by the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW). ).

“True hero”

Volodymyr Zelensky announced in his daily video message that he had visited his troops in Lyssychansk, the neighboring city of Severodonetsk. “We brought something to the army. I’m not going to talk about it in detail,” he said.

The Head of State also went to Zaporijgia, in the south of the country.

In addition to regional authorities, he met with Mariupol residents who had managed to escape Russian bombardment. “Each family has its own story. Most are without men,” he said. “One husband went to war, the other was taken prisoner, the other, sadly, died. A tragedy. No home, no love. But we must live for the children. Real heroes, they are among us”.

If fighting is concentrated in the south and east, particularly in Severodonetsk, “kyiv remains the main goal of the Russian invaders”, Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Malyar assured local media on Sunday, also asking for “continued support” from the West.

The Ukrainian capital was hit by several Russian attacks on Sunday morning, for the first time since late April.

Moscow said it targeted a freight car repair shop in southeastern Kyiv, 10 km from the city center, and destroyed armored vehicles supplied to Ukraine by Eastern European countries there.

“High-precision long-range missiles fired (…) on the outskirts of Kyiv destroyed T-72 tanks supplied by Eastern European countries and other armored vehicles that were in the hangars,” said Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov.

This was denied by Ukrainian officials and witnesses on the spot.

“This is another example of Russian-made counterfeiting to justify this brutal war against Ukraine,” Serhii Leshchenko, deputy director of the supervisory board of Ukrainian railway companies, told AFP.

Defeat at Cardiff

At night, AFP could see the destruction of several hangars and a large crater caused by bullets, while firefighters were still trying to control a small blaze.

On Rossiya-1 television, Russian President Vladimir Putin threatened to carry out more attacks on “sites we have not targeted so far”, if the West supplied Ukraine with long-range missiles, which he said were aimed at “prolonging the conflict”.

This warning did not prevent London from announcing Monday the delivery to kyiv of rocket launchers with a range of 80 kilometers (M270 MLRS), coming in addition to the American Himars, rocket launchers mounted on lightly armored vehicles, the same scope, promised last week by Washington.

Sunday night, on another pitch, the national team lost 1-0 in Cardiff against Wales, thus failing to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.

Encouraged by flags signed by soldiers from the front hanging on their dressing room walls, blue and yellow have all the ingredients to win this match: desire, combat, technique, tactics. All but one: efficiency. “I think we did everything we could but (…) we regret we didn’t score (…), that was the biggest obstacle,” admitted coach Oleksandr Petrakov in a press conference.

Serena Hoyles

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