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kyiv: Russia’s army continues to advance in eastern Ukraine, where the situation is “very difficult” for kyiv forces, according to President Zelensky, who fears widespread destruction and denounced the West’s “lack of unity” in back of his country.

The Russians are trying at all costs to tighten their grip on the Lugansk region, where they are “advancing in all directions at once”, said the region’s governor on the Ukrainian side, Serguiy Gaïdaï , in the Telegram on Wednesday.

Moscow decided to intensify its offensive in the Donbass, formed by the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, which Ukrainians are trying to defend, after moving Russian forces away from the country’s two largest cities, kyiv and Kharkiv (northern- east)

“The situation in Donbass is very difficult,” President Zelensky acknowledged on Tuesday night. According to him, the Russians “want to destroy everything” in the region.

On Wednesday morning, he called for “support from a united Europe”, lamenting the disunity of Westerners in the face of this war that has only just ended its fourth month, in a speech via videoconference at the economic forum . of Davos (Switzerland).

“We will have the advantage over Russia when we are all really united”, he said again, he further lamented the misunderstandings about Sweden and Finland’s accession to NATO or a total embargo on Russia’s gas and oil purchases.

Kyiv encouraged Westerners to deliver more weapons, including “heavy weapons”.

This is specifically to defend Donbass, which has been partially controlled since 2014 by pro-Russian separatists, from an alleged “genocide”, which Russian President Vladimir Putin launched the invasion of Ukraine in February 24.

“We will continue the special military operation until all objectives are achieved,” Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu stressed on Tuesday, adding that Moscow is preparing to conduct a lengthy offensive on Ukraine.

According to the Ukrainian General Staff of the Armed Forces, Moscow is using more of its air force to support its troops on the ground and “destroy vital and military infrastructure”.

A new Mariupol?

In Donbass, the Governor-General reported “increased intense bombing” and affirmed that “the Russian army aims to completely destroy Severodonetsk”, a strategic city northwest of Lugansk.

Governor Gaïdaï on his part feared that Russian forces would attack Lugansk as well as Mariupol, a large port in the southeast they had occupied after weeks of siege and bombing that nearly destroyed it.

The Russians surrounded Severodonetsk and Lyssytchansk, two localities separated by a river and forming the last pocket of Ukrainian resistance.

The fight for control of the town of Lyman, an important railway junction whose takeover will be an important step in the siege attempts, also continues, Donetsk pro-Russian separatist leader Denis Pushilin said in a broadcast. pro-Kremlin broadcast on Youtube.

On the south front, the situation remains stable, although Ukrainians claim territorial gains there.

In Mykolaiv (south), a few km from the territories controlled by the Russian army, daily life remains very difficult, with the speed of shortages, especially water, rising.

The sound of artillery rumbled in the distance and anti-aerial bombardment sirens sounded sometimes, but Anna Bondar patiently waited her turn to fill the drinking water. At age 79, he has a wife who lies in bed and spends two to three hours a day fetching water. “I was very tired,” he told AFP.

Since the fighting knocked down the pipeline in April and cut off access to water, residents have been walking, driving and cycling in search of water tankers.

A few dozen kilometers east is Kherson, the only region of Ukraine completely occupied by the Russian army, and where a group of journalists, including those from the AFP, have been accompanied by Russian armored vehicles.

In the city, the administration placed in the Moscow area has strongly called for a merger. The inhabitants, those who did not leave, confine themselves to an extreme silence.

100 km south, in the small seaside resort of Skadovsk, passersby politely apologize when an AFP journalist wants to ask them about life under Russian control.

Except for Vera Mironenko, a mother of three children. “Everyone lives on their savings, businesses are closed,” he said, referring to “stratospheric prices” and the lack of drugs. “We are patient while waiting for life to get better (…) whatever the power,” she adds, a bit fatalistic.

Increasing its pressure on Russia, the United States announced it would end, from Wednesday 4:01 GMT, an exemption allowing Moscow to repay its debts in dollars. This decision could push Russia, which has a dozen payments to be honored by the end of the year, into default.

At the Davos Forum, Swiss President Ignazio Cassis announced that his country will organize a “Ukraine reconstruction conference” on July 4 and 5, bringing together the World Bank, OECD and European Union (EU). .

The EU is still discussing a Russian oil embargo, which requires the unity of member countries, and in particular is opposed by Hungary, which is highly dependent on Russia’s oil. “Something is wrong with Hungary!” said President Zelensky on Wednesday.

In three months of armed conflict, 234 children have been killed and 433 wounded, Ukraine’s Prosecutor General’s office Iryna Venediktova said on Tuesday.

In all, thousands of civilians and soldiers were killed, without measurable numbers. For the city of Mariupol alone, Ukrainian authorities speak 20,000 dead.

More than eight million Ukrainians are internally displaced, according to the UN. It added 6.5 million who fled abroad, more than half of them – 3.4 million – in Poland.

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