June 29, 2022

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Russia presses Donbass offensive as Polish leader visits Kyiv

Russia presses Donbass offensive as Polish leader visits Kyiv

Kyiv, Ukraine (AP) – Russia continued its offensive in eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region on Sunday as Poland’s president traveled to Kyiv to support the country’s western aspirations and became the first foreign leader to address the Ukrainian parliament since the war began..

Ukrainian lawmakers stood up to salute Polish President Andrzej Duda, who thanked them for the honor of speaking at a place where “the heart of a free, independent and democratic Ukraine beats.”

Duda’s visit, his second to the Ukrainian capital since April, comes as Russian and Ukrainian forces are engaged in battles spread along a 551-kilometre wedge in the heart of the country’s eastern industrial zone.

After declaring full control of a sprawling seaside steel plant This was the last defensive stronghold in the port city of Mariupol, where the Russian military launched artillery and missile attacks in Ukraine’s industrial heartland, seeking to expand territory held by Moscow-backed separatists since 2014.

In a Saturday night video address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the situation in Donbass “really difficult”, but said his country’s resilience Almost three months of total war against Russia “good news”.

“Every day that the defenders remove, and disrupt, these offensive plans of Russia, is a tangible contribution to the main day’s approach. The desired day for which we all look forward and fight: Victory Day,” Zelensky said.

On Saturday, Zelensky stressed that the 27-member European Union should consider Ukraine’s desire to join the bloc as soon as possible in the context of the Russian invasion.

“I want to stress that the path of our European integration is not just about politics,” Zelensky said. “It is about the quality of life. And about the fact that Ukrainians perceive life values ​​in the same way as the vast majority of Europeans.”

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Ukraine’s possible candidacy for EU membership is due to be discussed at the Brussels summit in late June. The government in Warsaw is stepping up efforts to persuade other EU members who are more reluctant to accept the war-torn country as a member.

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Poland has taken in millions of Ukrainian refugees It became a gateway for Western humanitarian aid and arms into Ukraine. It is also a transit point into Ukraine for some foreign fighters, including from Belarus, who have volunteered to fight against Russian forces.

“Despite the great devastation, despite the terrible crime and the great suffering that the Ukrainian people endured every day, the Russian invaders did not destroy you. They failed. I firmly believe that they will never succeed,” he said before the Verkhovna Rada, the Verkhovna Rada, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. “I want to say this with all my might: the free world has the face of Ukraine today.”

Russia appears to have taken slow steps forward in the Donbass in recent days. Intensified efforts to seize Sievierodonetsk, the main Ukrainian-controlled city of Luhansk Province, which together with Donetsk Province constitutes Donbass.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Hayday said the city’s only functioning hospital had only three doctors and enough supplies for 10 days.

The British Ministry of Defense said on Sunday that the only operating Russian company of BMP-T Terminator tank support vehicles, designed to protect main battle tanks, “is likely to be deployed to the Sievierodonetsk hub of the Donbass offensive.”

It said, however, with a maximum of 10 vehicles deployed, that it was “unlikely to have a significant impact on the campaign.”

In a morning report by the General Staff, Russia also said it was preparing to resume its offensive on the city of Sloviansk in Donetsk province which is critical to Russia’s goal of capturing all of eastern Ukraine and saw heavy fighting last month after the withdrawal of Russian forces. Kyiv.

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The regional governor said that Russian shelling on Saturday killed seven civilians and wounded 10 others elsewhere in Donetsk region.

The district police said, Saturday, that a monastery in the village of Bohorodichne was evacuated after it was hit by a Russian air strike. In a Facebook post, police said about 100 monks, nuns and children were looking for safe shelter in the basement of the church and no one was hurt.

Russia claims to have captured nearly 2,500 Ukrainian fighters From the besieged Mariupol Steel Factory, fears grew about their fate and the future facing the rest of the city’s residents, now in ruins with more than 20,000 residents fearing death.

The fighters’ family members, who belonged to a variety of military and law enforcement units, demanded that they be given their rights as prisoners of war and eventually be returned to Ukraine. Deputy Prime Minister Irina Vereshuk said on Saturday that Ukraine would “fight for the return” of each of them.

On Saturday, the Russian Defense Ministry released a video of its troops detaining Serhiy Volynsky, commander of the 36th Special Marines Brigade of the Ukrainian Navy, who was one of the main forces defending the steel plant. The Associated Press was unable to independently verify the date, location, and terms of the video.

The Azovstal steel plant was for weeks the last defensive stronghold in Mariupol and became a symbol of Ukraine’s perseverance. Its capture gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a much-needed victory in a war he launched nearly three months ago.

Denis Pushlin, the pro-Kremlin president of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, has vowed that Ukrainian fighters from the factory will face courts. He said that among the fighters were some foreigners, but did not provide details.

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The Ukrainian government has not commented on Russia’s claim to take Azovstal. The Ukrainian army told the fighters that their mission had been completed And they can go out. She described their expulsion as an evacuation rather than a total surrender.

Mariupol, part of Donbass, was besieged early in the war and became a fearsome model for people elsewhere in the country of the hunger, terror, and death they would face if the Russians surrounded their communities.

The mayor warned Saturday that the city faces a health and sanitation “disaster” from mass burials in shallow pits across the devastated city as well as collapsing sewage systems. An estimated 100,000 of the 450,000 people who resided in Mariupol before the war still remain.

“In addition to the humanitarian catastrophe caused by (Russian) occupiers and collaborators, the city is on the verge of an outbreak of infectious diseases,” Mayor Vadim Boychenko said in the Telegram messaging application.

With Russia in control of the city, Ukrainian authorities will likely face delays in documenting evidence of alleged Russian atrocities in Mariupol, including the bombing of a maternity hospital and a theater where hundreds of civilians had sheltered..

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Picatoros reported from Donetsk. Associated Press journalists Juras Karmanau in Lviv, Andrea Rosa in Kharkiv, and other AP staff members around the world contributed.

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Follow the Associated Press’ coverage of the war in Ukraine: https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine