In late March, after failing to take the capital Kyiv in the face of strong resistance, Russia turned its attention to eastern Ukraine.

Observers are photographed in front of a shopping and entertainment center in Odessa, destroyed after a Russian missile strike late in May 9, 2022.

KIEV – Intense fighting took place in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine, where Russia concentrated its forces without making significant progress, while “very difficult negotiations” on the fate of the last besieged defenders in the city of Mariupol.

Europe on Friday promised Ukraine another half a billion dollars in military support as it resists the Russian invasion that began on February 24, while Sweden and Finland’s steps to join NATO have faced many obstacles.

In late March, after failing to take the capital Kyiv in the face of strong resistance, Russia turned its attention to eastern Ukraine.

Ukrainian forces repulsed Russian attempts to cross the river and surround the city of Severodonetsk, said the governor of the eastern Luhansk region Sergei Gaidai.

“There are heavy fighting on the border with the Donetsk region, on the part of Papasnaya,” Gaidai said, reporting on the heavy losses of Russians in equipment and personnel.

“From interceptions [phone calls]we understand that in general [Russian] the battalion refused to attack because they saw what was happening. “

Aerial photographs showed dozens of destroyed armored vehicles on the river bank and broken pontoon bridges.

The UK Ministry of Defense said the Russians had suffered heavy losses after Ukrainian forces successfully prevented their attempt to cross the river.

“Carrying out river crossings in disputed conditions is a very risky maneuver and shows the pressure under the Russian commander to make progress in his operations in eastern Ukraine,” the statement said.

The ministry added that Russian forces “have not been able to make significant progress despite the concentration of forces in the area.”

A senior U.S. defense official said most of the activity now falls on the Donbass region, “and, in fact, we continue to see that the Russians are not getting any major benefits there.”

According to the latest estimate by the American Institute for War Studies, “Russian President Vladimir Putin is likely to intend to directly annex the occupied south and east of Ukraine … in the coming months.”

Russia’s hopes of winning soon seem to have been dashed, and Ukraine has even managed to oust Russian troops from the northern city of Kharkiv, which has been a priority for Moscow.

In the Kharkiv region, “the main efforts of the enemy are focused on ensuring the withdrawal of their units from the city of Kharkov,” said a spokesman for the Ukrainian General Staff.

“HEAVY DIGESTION”

“The gradual liberation of the Kharkiv region shows that we will not leave anyone in the enemy,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in his daily video message on Friday.

“Of course, we remember every city and every community that is still under occupation,” he said, noting the southern port city of Mariupol, where the last defenders are hiding at the huge Azovstal steel plant.

“We do not stop trying to save all our people from Mariupol and Azovstal,” – said Zelensky.

“Currently, very difficult negotiations are underway on the next stage of the evacuation mission – rescuing the seriously injured, medics. This is a large number of people.”
Women, children and the elderly, who hid in tunnels and bunkers at the Azovstal plant, were evacuated in late April with the help of the UN and the Red Cross.

The Ukrainian General Staff said in a Saturday update that Russian troops continue to “block our units in the area of ​​the Azovstal plant” and inflict “massive artillery and air strikes.”

Inside the plant, Sviatoslav Palamar, one of the leaders of the Ukrainian regiment “Azov”, told the online forum “Kiev Safe Forum” that there are 600 wounded and asked for help in their evacuation.

“We continue to defend ourselves and will not give up,” he said.

FINLAND, SWEDEN NATO

At a meeting of G7 foreign ministers in Germany, EU foreign policy chief Josep Barrel pledged an additional 500m euros to Ukraine on Friday, bringing the bloc’s total military aid to two billion euros.

The G7 ministerial meeting, joined by their Ukrainian and Moldovan counterparts, continues on Saturday.

An informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers is also scheduled for Saturday in Berlin, where Swedish and Finnish ministers plan to meet with their Turkish counterpart to discuss their potential applications to join the alliance.

After that, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke out against their entry.

US President Joe Biden spoke on Friday with Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Anderson and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto about the NATO plan.

The White House said it was “working to clarify” Erdogan’s position on the issue.

The expansion of the alliance requires the approval of each NATO member.

And a day after leaders in Helsinki said their country should apply to join NATO “immediately”, Russia’s state energy group Inter RAO said it would cut off electricity supplies to Finland from Saturday.

A subsidiary of Inter RAO in the northern region has accused it of suspending non-payment for electricity sold in May.

Russia has warned that it will be forced to take “reciprocal steps” if Finland joins NATO to “send the emerging threats”.

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