Ukraine’s Donbass ‘destroyed’ as Russian artillery and planes step up assaults

  • Russia intensifies offensive in Donbass
  • Zelenskyj says the region has been completely destroyed
  • The Group of Seven is sending billions more to Ukraine
  • Hit civilian infrastructure
  • The US Senate approves another US$40 billion in aid

Kyiv, Ukraine, May 20 (Reuters) – Russian forces have land and air bombed areas in Ukraine’s eastern Donbass, killing at least 13 civilians, Ukraine’s military said on Friday, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the attacks had killed the Region turned into “hell”.

As the war neared the three-month mark, the Russians stepped up efforts to subdue the Donbass region, Ukraine’s general staff said.

They hit civilian infrastructure with “massive” artillery fire, including multiple rocket launchers, the General Staff said in a statement. Russian aircraft had also attacked targets.

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Russian shelling in the Donbass region of Luhansk killed 13 civilians in the past 24 hours, regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said. Twelve of those deaths occurred in the city of Sievierodonesk, but a Russian attack there was unsuccessful, he said.

Reuters has not been able to independently verify the reports and Russia denies attacking civilians.

“Donbass is completely destroyed,” President Zelenskyy said in a speech on Thursday evening. “All hell broke loose – and that’s no exaggeration.”

There are also constant strikes in the Odessa region in the south, he said.

Reuters has not been able to independently verify the reports and Russia denies attacking civilians.

Russia’s focus on the Donbass follows a failure to capture the capital, Kyiv, in the early stages of the invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24.

Thousands of people – including many civilians – were killed and entire cities were razed to the ground in Europe’s worst crisis in decades.

Almost a third of Ukraine’s population has fled their homes, including more than 6 million who have fled the country in a refugee stream while others are trapped in cities pulverized by Russian bombardments.

British military intelligence said on Friday that Russia is likely to further step up operations in the Donbass once it finally secures the southern port city of Mariupol – the scene of a weeks-long siege and Russia’s most significant success in an otherwise faltering campaign.

The region, an industrial powerhouse, is compromising the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, which Moscow is claiming on behalf of separatists.

Putin is calling the invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” to rid the country of fascists — a claim Kyiv and its Western allies have described as a baseless pretext for an unprovoked war.

The Kremlin leader was due to hold a Security Council meeting later on Friday.

A view of the rubble after a building was hit by an alleged airstrike during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, in Bakhmut, Donetsk Region, Ukraine, in this handout picture released May 19, 2022. State Emergency Service of Ukraine/Handout via REUTERS

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WESTERN SUPPORT

The Western powers, which have strongly condemned Russia’s actions and sought to isolate Moscow with a series of sanctions, increased their support for Ukraine.

The Group of Seven Rich Nations on Thursday agreed to provide Ukraine with $18.4 billion to make up for lost revenue as the war wreaks havoc on its economy.

The US Senate approved nearly $40 billion in new aid to Ukraine, by far the largest US aid package to date.

The White House is also working to put advanced anti-ship missiles in the hands of Ukrainian fighters to help break the Russian naval blockade that has largely halted Ukraine’s food exports. Continue reading

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia of weaponizing food by holding “hostage” supplies not only for Ukrainians but for millions around the world. read more The war has pushed up global prices for grain, cooking oil, fuel and fertilizer.

The EU said it is studying ways to use the frozen assets of Russian oligarchs to finance Ukraine’s reconstruction, while the United States is not ruling out the possibility of imposing sanctions on countries buying Russian oil.

ENDURE

Last week, Russia won its biggest victory since the invasion began when the Kyiv government ordered the defenders of a steel mill in Mariupol to withdraw after a protracted siege.

British military intelligence said as many as 1,700 soldiers are likely to have surrendered at the Azovstal steel factory, according to a similar number released by Moscow on Thursday.

Ukrainian officials who have tried to arrange a prisoner exchange have declined to comment on the number, saying it could jeopardize rescue efforts.

Late Thursday, Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy head of the Azov regiment defending the steelworks, released an 18-second video saying he and other commanders were still at the plant.

“A specific operation is underway, the details of which I will not disclose,” he said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had registered hundreds of prisoners from Azovstal now being held by Russia, but it did not give an exact number.

The leader of the Russian-backed separatists who control the area said nearly half the fighters remained at the steel mill.

The wounded would be given medical attention, while the healthy would be taken to a penal colony and treated well, he said.

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Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Max Hunder in Kyiv and a Reuters journalist in Mariupol; Additional reporting by Reuters offices; writing by Stephen Coates and Angus MacSwan; Edited by Frank Jack Daniel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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