After failing to seize the Ukrainian capital kyiv or its second city Kharkiv, Russia is trying to take full control of the Donbas, made up of two eastern provinces that Moscow claims in the name of the separatists.
Russia has poured thousands of troops into the area, attacking from three sides in an attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces holding out in the town of Sievierodonetsk and its twin Lysychansk. Their fall would leave the whole of Luhansk province under Russian control, a key Kremlin war objective.
“The occupiers shelled more than 40 towns in the Donetsk and Luhansk region, destroying or damaging 47 civilian sites, including 38 houses and a school. As a result of this shelling, five civilians died and 12 were injured,” he said. the Joint Task Force of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said on Facebook.
The statement said 10 enemy attacks were repelled, four tanks and four drones were destroyed and 62 “enemy soldiers” were killed.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Russian troops “heavily outnumbered us” in parts of the east.
Reuters was unable to independently confirm the battlefield reports.
As Moscow seeks to solidify its grip on territory it has seized, President Vladimir Putin has signed a decree simplifying the process of acquiring Russian citizenship and passports for residents of newly captured districts.
Russia’s parliament on Wednesday scrapped the upper age limit for contract service in the army, stressing the need to replace lost troops.
In a late night video address, Zelenskiy, commenting on the new Russian enlistment rules, said: “(They) don’t have enough young men anymore, but they still have the will to fight. time to crush that will.”
Zelenskiy said this week that the conflict could only end with direct talks between him and Putin.
Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West claim that the fascist allegation is baseless and that the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.
Lysychansk police are collecting the bodies of those killed in order to bury them in mass graves, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said. Some 150 people were buried in a mass grave in a district of Lysychansk, he added.
Families of people buried in mass graves will be able to reburial after the war, and police are issuing documents allowing Ukrainians to obtain death certificates for their relatives, Gaidai said.
A missile cratered a railway line and damaged nearby buildings in Pokrovsk, a Ukrainian-held town in Donbas that has become a major hub for supplies and evacuations.
Kramatorsk, closer to the frontline, the streets were largely deserted, while in Sloviansk, further west, many residents took advantage of what Ukraine said was a pause in the Russian onslaught to go.
“My house was bombed, I have nothing,” said Vera Safronova, sitting in a train car among the evacuees.
Further north, two people were killed and seven injured by a Russian artillery shelling of the town of Balakliya in the Kharkiv region, an aide to its governor said on Facebook.
Russia is also targeting southern Ukraine, where officials said shelling killed a civilian and damaged dozens of Zaporozhzhia homes and missiles destroyed an industrial facility in Kryviy Rih.
Moscow blocked ships from southern Ukraine that would normally export Ukrainian cereals and sunflower oil through the Black Sea, driving up prices globally. The African Union on Wednesday urged the two countries to unblock grain and fertilizer exports to avert widespread famine.
Russia blamed Western sanctions for the food crisis. She said on Wednesday that she was ready to provide a humanitarian corridor allowing ships carrying food to leave Ukraine, but that she wanted the sanctions to be lifted in return.
Western nations have imposed severe sanctions on Russia.
The United States pushed Russia closer to the brink of a historic debt default on Wednesday by not extending its license to pay bondholders. This waiver has enabled Moscow to continue paying its public debt until now.
The European Commission proposed Wednesday to make the violation of European sanctions against Russia a crime.
The EU has also said it hopes to agree sanctions on Russian oil before the next meeting of EU leaders.
But Russia, for now at least, is not short of money. Oil and gas revenues rose to $28 billion in April alone, thanks to high energy prices.