No truce, no concessions, says Ukraine, as Russia focuses on Donbass

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There will be no ceasefire or concessions to Russia, Ukraine’s chief negotiator said on Saturday as Russia stepped up its assault on Luhansk, one of the two provinces that make up Donbass in eastern Ukraine.

“The war will not stop (after concessions). It will just be paused for a while,” said Mykhailo Podolyak, who is also an adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, explaining Ukraine’s position to the light of recent calls for a ceasefire. -fire of US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. “They are going to launch a new, even more bloody and large-scale offensive,” Podolyak added.

Pro-Russian separatists have been fighting Ukraine for control of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces – which together form Donbass – since 2014, when Russia seized the Crimean peninsula.

Ukrainian forces in both provinces said via Facebook that at least seven people had been killed in Donetsk in the past 24 hours when the Russians, using aircraft, artillery, tanks, rockets, mortars and missiles, struck civilian structures and residential areas, Reuters reported.

The Ukrainians said they repelled nine attacks, destroying five tanks and 10 armored vehicles, according to the Facebook post.

“The situation in Donbass is extremely difficult,” Zelenskyy said in his evening speech on Saturday. He said Ukrainian forces were holding back the Russian army as it attempted to attack the cities of Sloviansk and Sievierodonetsk.

On Friday night, Zelenskyy said victory over Russia would ultimately come through a diplomatic settlement.

A wedding photo lies among the rubble of a Russian strike at the start of the war in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine, May 21, 2022.

“The victory will be difficult, it will be bloody and in combat, but its end will be diplomatic. I am very convinced of that,” Zelenskyy said in an interview with Ukrainian television on Friday evening. “There are things you can’t put an end to without sitting down at the negotiating table.”

The Ukrainian leader also said his country was trying to recover fighters who surrendered to Russian forces after weeks of fighting at the Azovstal steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol.

“It will all depend on (the responsibilities) that the UN, the Red Cross and the Russian Federation have taken upon themselves, that they (the fighters) will all be safe, waiting for one or another format exchange,” he said. He said the Ukrainian intelligence services were preparing “for a dialogue and an exchange”.

Russia launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine almost three months ago on February 24.

Concern over the treatment of these fighters grew on Saturday when Denis Pushilin, the pro-Kremlin leader of a region in eastern Ukraine controlled by Moscow-backed separatists, said they would be brought in justice.

Pushilin said there were 2,439 people in custody, including some foreign nationals among the fighters.

Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said on Saturday that Ukraine would fight for the return of every soldier.

There was no immediate confirmation from Ukraine that Mariupol was fully under Russian control.

The port city is the scene of the bloodiest siege of the war, with Russian forces bombarding it for almost three months. Much of Mariupol was reduced to rubble and over 20,000 civilians died.

But its capture adds to Moscow’s goal of a land route from Russia to Crimea and possibly beyond.

Russia on Saturday destroyed a Ukrainian special operations base near Odessa, Ukraine’s main Black Sea port, as well as a large stockpile of Western-supplied weapons in the Zhytomyr region in northern Ukraine, the Associated Press reported, citing Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov. There was no confirmation from the Ukrainian side.

Destroyed trams lie in a depot in Mariupol, on the territory under the government of the Donetsk People's Republic, eastern Ukraine, May 21, 2022.

Destroyed trams lie in a depot in Mariupol, on the territory under the government of the Donetsk People’s Republic, eastern Ukraine, May 21, 2022.

The end of the fighting in Mariupol not only gives Russian President Vladimir Putin a victory, but also allows him to move fighters east into the Donbass.

Among the developments there:

The only functioning hospital in Sievierodonetsk, the main Ukrainian-controlled city in the Luhansk region, still has three doctors and enough supplies for 10 days, Governor Serhii Haidai said.

Haidai also said Russian troops destroyed a bridge over the Siverskiy Donets River between Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. There was fighting on the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk from morning till night, Haidai said on the Telegram messaging app.

A monastery in the village of Bohorodichne in Donetsk region was evacuated after being hit by a Russian airstrike, regional police said on Saturday, AP reported.

Around 100 monks, nuns and children had taken refuge in the basement of the church and no one was injured, police said in a Facebook post, which included video of the damage to the monastery as well as nuns, monks and children boarding vans. Friday for evacuation.

Zelenskyy stressed on Saturday that Donbass is still part of Ukraine and its forces are fighting to liberate it.

Some information for this story comes from The Associated Press and Reuters.


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