Russian troops pound Donbass as war in Ukraine enters 100th day | Ukraine

Ukraine will fight Russian invasion, its president has said, while the Kremlin has pledged to persist until ‘all our goals are achieved’ as Moscow’s war enters its 100th day with troops shelling the Donbass region.

“Victory will be ours,” Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a video featuring the same key ministers and advisers who appeared with him in a defiant broadcast on February 24, the day his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, launched his unprovoked assault.

“Our squad is much bigger,” Zelenskiy said on Friday. “The Ukrainian Armed Forces are here. More importantly, our people, the people of our country, are here. We have been defending Ukraine for 100 days already Glory to Ukraine.

In Moscow, official Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that “certain results have been achieved” by Russia’s “military operation”, pointing to what he called the “liberation” of certain areas of the “pro-Nazi Armed Forces of Ukraine”. .

Tens of thousands have been killed, millions have been sent to flight and entire towns have been reduced to rubble since the invasion began, Russian forces – driven back around the capital, Kyiv, by fierce resistance Ukrainian – now focusing on capturing the east.

Moscow has seized around a fifth of Ukraine’s territory, tripling the land under its occupation since 2014, when it seized Crimea and parts of Donbass, where some of the fiercest fighting is centered on the industrial city of Sieverodonetsk.

“This war has and will have no winner,” said Amin Awad, UN Under-Secretary-General and Crisis Coordinator for Ukraine. “On the contrary, we have witnessed for 100 days what is lost: lives, homes, jobs and prospects.”

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Zelenskiy’s office said fierce fighting continued in the city center on Friday, with invading forces “bombing civilian infrastructure and the Ukrainian army”. Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russian troops were “leveling everything”.

Accusing Moscow’s forces of destroying hospitals, schools and roads, he said resistance was now limited to around a fifth of the city, with Ukrainian troops still holding a sprawling steel and chemical plant in an industrial area, a Gaidai said.

The situation in Lysychansk, Severodonetsk’s twin city across the Donets River, also looked bad, with around 60% of infrastructure and housing destroyed and internet, mobile phone and gas services all out of service, Oleksandr Zaika, head of the city’s military-civilian administration, said.

Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleskiy Reznikov said Ukrainian forces had achieved some success in Sievierodonetsk overnight, adding that artillery crews were already training on new Himars and MLRS rocket systems promised more earlier this week by the United States and Great Britain.

Washington had said this week that it expected about three weeks of training would be needed before Ukraine could start using the rockets, which could target Russian rear supply lines and help nullify the advantage of Russian artillery firepower in the front.

Russia’s recent massive assault in the east was one of the deadliest phases of the war for both sides, with Moscow making slow but steady progress, squeezing defenders into a pocket in the Luhansk and Donetsk which make up the Donbass.

A man walks past heavily damaged buildings and destroyed cars in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine.
A man walks past heavily damaged buildings and destroyed cars in Bakhmut, Donetsk region, eastern Ukraine. Photography: Francisco Seco/AP

Amid growing fears of a global food crisis, African Union chief Senegalese President Macky Sall met Putin in the Black Sea port of Sochi to raise concerns about the consequences of the war for the continent.

Russia and Ukraine account for almost a third of global wheat supplies, while Russia is also a major exporter of fertilizers and Ukraine is a major exporter of corn and sunflower oil. Ukrainian exports have been halted by a Russian blockade of the country’s ports, while Western sanctions have cut off access to Russian production.

Sall asked Putin to “realize that our countries, even if they are far from the theater, are victims on the economic level” of the conflict. “It really creates serious threats to food security on the continent,” Sall said.

Putin did not mention the grain supply to reporters, but said Russia was “always on the side of Africa” ​​and now wanted to improve cooperation. “We attach great importance to our relations with African countries,” he said.

Turkey has said it expects progress on a plan to unblock grain exports from Ukraine’s Black Sea ports when Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visits the country next week. Moscow and Kyiv want a solution to the crisis, a Turkish official has said.

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Although hurdles remain – such as payment mechanisms for agricultural products and mines floating in the Black Sea – the official said Moscow could ‘take further positive steps’ after saying on Thursday it was open to plan.

Turkey has already said it is ready to play a role in a “monitoring mechanism” if a deal is struck, potentially involving a Turkish naval escort for tankers leaving Ukraine. Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu receives his Russian counterpart for discussions on the plan on June 8.

Belarus was ready to allow transit of Ukrainian grain to Baltic Sea ports if it is also allowed to ship Belarusian goods from those ports, the country’s leader, Alexander Lukashenko, said. Exports from Ukraine via Belarus have been one of the options in the discussions led by the UN.

In a phone call with UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday, Lukashenko said Belarus was ready to free up needed capacity on its Ukraine grain railway, and offered to to organize talks between Belarus, Ukraine and other countries ready to provide access to their ports.

On the defense and security front, Turkey said progress on Finland’s and Sweden’s NATO membership applications – which Ankara is blocking – ahead of an alliance summit in Madrid later this month would depend on their response to Turkey’s demands.

Turkey accuses the two Nordic countries of supporting and harboring Kurdish militants and other groups it deems terrorist, and says it has not yet received a satisfactory response from Stockholm or Helsinki.

“NATO is not a tourism or economic alliance; it is a security alliance, which means that it must ensure the security of all its members equally and fairly,” said Ibrahim Kalin, spokesperson and chief foreign policy adviser to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

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