Ukraine Updates: After Fall of Mariupol, Russian Forces Push to Encircle Eastern City of Severodonetsk
UK Defense Ministry: “The Severodonetsk area remains one of Russia’s immediate tactical priorities.”
After wresting control over the southern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol following 12 weeks of intense fighting, Russian forces have launched a multi-pronged attack on the city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine.
Ukrainian authorities confirmed the launch of a Russian offensive from four separate directions. “Russia has attempted to break into the city of Severodonetsk from four separate directions,” the BBC reported Saturday, quoting the region’s mayor.
After securing Mariupol, Severodonetsk — part of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk province — may become the next big target for the invading Russian forces, reports suggest. “The Severodonetsk area remains one of Russia’s immediate tactical priorities,” the UK Ministry of Defense said in its latest intelligence assessment.
If the latest reports are to be believed, the Russian forces around Severodonetsk are again trying to encircle Ukrainian defenders in a cauldron similar to the one created in Mariupol. The UK newspaper Guardian noted on Friday:
According to multiple sources, Russian troops were pushing west of the Russian-occupied town of Popasna and also attempting to gain ground to the north of Severodonetsk, advancing more than 10km in at least one region with residents fleeing under shellfire.
The focus of the main Russian advance appeared to be the town of Soledar amid speculation that their initial aim was to cut one of the main supply routes to thousands of Ukrainian defenders, who are outnumbered by Russian forces.
After Fall of Mariupol, Zelensky Rallies the Nation
After the last defenders surrendered to the Russians invaders following a 12 week-long battle for Mariupol, President Volodymyr Zelensky is ralling the nation.
The Ukrainian leader downplayed the latest Russian gains, calling them temporary. “For them, all these victories – the occupation of Crimea or Donbas – is very temporary. And all this will return – since this is our territory,” President Zelensky said over the weekend.
The capture of Mariupol strengthens the Russian position in the east of the country, consolidating its annexation of Crimea eight years ago. “The Russians have secured the land bridge from Crimea to the Donbas, which will prove difficult for Ukraine to take back,” the UK new channel Sky News noted.
Fresh Recruits Swell the Ranks of Ukrainian Military
The Ukrainian government has responded to the ongoing Russian offensive by training hundreds of thousands of new recruits. “Russian soldiers are now focused on the south and eastern regions of Ukraine, but — anticipating a drawn-out conflict — Kyiv has stepped up the training of its new recruits so they are ready to face the enemy if and when needed,” the French news agency AFP reported Saturday.
Most of the newly-enlisted soldiers have joined the ranks of the Ukrainian territorial defense unit, an auxiliary force to the country’s regular army. “Some 700,000 Ukrainian soldiers are now actively participating in defending the country, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a televised interview on Saturday,” the French TV channel EuroNews reported.
Russia Cuts Off Gas Supply to Finland
Days after Finland submitted the request to join NATO, Russia has halted gas supply to the arctic country. On Tuesday, the Finnish parliament overwhelmingly approved the bid for NATO membership, ending the country’s policy military non-alignment in place for 73 years.
Russia, which shares an 830-mile border with Finland, threatened “retaliatory steps” if NATO expanded to include Nordic countries. Finland’s neighbor to the West, Sweden, has also applied to join the Western security bloc.
The Associated Press reported the Russian measure:
Russia halted gas exports to neighboring Finland on Saturday, a highly symbolic move that came just days after the Nordic country announced it wanted to join NATO and marked a likely end to Finland’s nearly 50 years of importing natural gas from Russia.
The measure taken by the Russian energy giant Gazprom was in line with an earlier announcement following Helsinki’s refusal to pay for the gas in rubles as Russian President Vladimir Putin has demanded European countries do since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.
The Finnish state-owned gas company Gasum said that “natural gas supplies to Finland under Gasum’s supply contract have been cut off” by Russia on Saturday morning at 7 a.m. local time…
The Russian move can also been seen as a warning for other European countries reluctant of paying for their oil and gas exports in rubles. Moscow wants to boost rubles payments in exchange for Russian energy exports — a bid to stabilize its currency hit by Western sanctions. Several European countries, particularly Germany and the Netherlands, are heavily depended on Russian gas exports for powering industry and heating homes.DONATE
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