City of Donbass: Turn in the Russian offensive main Donbass town, heavy shelling

The Ukrainians were digging to defend the eastern city of Siviarodonetsk as it withstood heavy bombardment by Russian forces in an attempt to seize the industrial area known as Donbass.

In Tokyo on Monday, President Joe Biden met with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, thanking Japan for Japan’s strong leadership in standing by Russia’s condemnation of Moscow’s attack on Ukraine.

Ahead of his trip to Asia, Biden signed into law an additional 40 40 billion in US aid to Ukraine to defend itself against Russian aggression.

As Russian and Ukrainian forces battled the 551-kilometer (342-mile) rift in Ukraine’s eastern industrial hub, Polish President Andrzej Duda traveled to Kyiv on Sunday in support of Ukraine’s European Union aspirations and addressed the Ukrainian parliament.

Duda received a standing ovation for thanking lawmakers for speaking to him about “the heartbeat of a free, independent and democratic Ukraine”.

Ukraine does not have to bow to pressure from Russia and anywhere else in Europe, Duda said. “I want to make it clear: only Ukraine has the right to decide its own future. Only Ukraine has the right to decide for itself.”

Duda, a right-wing populist leader who clearly favored former US President Donald Trump over Biden in the 2020 election, said “Kiev is the place where it is clear we need more America in Europe, both militarily and economically.”

Poland has become an important ally of Ukraine, welcoming millions of Ukrainian refugees and a gateway to Western humanitarian aid and weapons, and a transit point for some foreign fighters who have volunteered to fight Russian forces.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told Dudar’s visit, his second since April, “a historic opportunity not to lose such a strong relationship built on blood by the Russian aggression. All this is not to lose our state, not to lose our people.”

Zelensky called on the 27-member EU to expedite his country’s request. It is expected to be discussed at the Brussels summit in late June.

Fighting continues in the battlefield, Nakal, town-to-city as Russian troops try to expand the territory occupied by Moscow-backed separatists in Donbass, including Luhansk and Donetsk, since 2014.

Sievierodonetsk is the main Ukrainian-controlled city in the province of Luhansk, whose governor, Sergei Haidai, has accused the Russians of “just deliberately trying to destroy the city … engaging in a burning-earth system.”

Haidai said the Russians had indiscriminately occupied several towns and cities in Luhansk after 24 hours of shelling and concentrated troops and weapons there, bringing troops from Kharkiv to the northwest, Mariupol to the south and from inside Russia.

The only working hospital in Siviarodonetak has only three doctors and supplies for 10 days, he said.

The Ukrainian military says Russian forces have failed in their attack on a village on the outskirts of Oleksandrivka.

To bolster its defenses, Ukraine’s parliament on Sunday voted to extend martial law until August 23 and to consolidate its armed forces for the third time.

Ukrainian officials have said little about the number of casualties in their country since the war began, but Zelensky told a news conference on Sunday that previously apparently 50 to 100 Ukrainian fighters were being killed every day.

In a morning report from the General Staff, Russia said it was preparing to resume its offensive in Sloviansk, a town in the Donetsk province where fierce fighting erupted last month after Moscow troops withdrew from Kiev.

The conflict is not limited to the east of Ukraine. A powerful explosion was heard Monday morning in Korostan, about 160 kilometers (100 miles) west of Kyiv, the city’s deputy mayor said. Ukrainian news agencies reported that this was the third day in a row of apparent attacks in the district of Zaitomi.

In the Russian-controlled city of Enerhod, 261 kilometers (174 miles) northwest of Mariupol, the Moscow-appointed mayor was injured in an explosion at his residence on Sunday, Ukrainian and Russian news agencies reported. Ukraine’s Union News Agency says a bomb planted by “local partisans” wounded 48-year-old Andrei Shevchuk, who lives near Europe’s largest Zaporizhiya nuclear power plant.

Also on Monday, a Ukrainian court was expected to reach a verdict for the first Russian soldier to be tried for an alleged war crime. The 21-year-old sergeant, who confessed to shooting a Ukrainian man in the head in the Sumi region on February 28, could face up to life in prison if convicted.

Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Irina Venediktova says her office is prosecuting 41 Russian soldiers for war crimes, including bombing civilian infrastructure, killing civilians, rape and looting.

In other developments, Ukraine’s First Lady Olena Zelenska gave a rare interview with her husband on national broadcaster ICTV and said she had rarely seen him since the war began.

“Our family, like all Ukrainian families, is now separated,” he said, referring to most of his phone calls.

“Unfortunately, we can’t sit together, have dinner with the whole family, talk about everything,” he said.

Zelensky called the interview an “air date” and the couple, who have two children, joked in front of reporters.

“We are joking, but we are really waiting, like everyone else, to be reunited, like all the families in Ukraine who are now separated, waiting for their relatives and friends who want to be together again,” he said.

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