Russia ‘is not happening, but fighting continues’ – Donbass bombed but vital territory still in Ukrainian hands

Russian forces struck Ukrainein the eastern Donbass region yesterday but failed to capture three target areas, Ukraine’s military said, while Moscow said Western sanctions on Russia and arms sales to Ukraine were hampering peace talks.

The Russians tried to seize the Lyman oblasts in Donetsk and Sievierodonetsk and Popasna in Luhansk, the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said in a daily update. “No success – the fighting continues,” it said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a statement published yesterday that the lifting of Western sanctions on Russia is part of peace talks, which he says are difficult but are continuing daily via video link.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has insisted since the start of the Russian invasion on February 24 that sanctions must be stepped up and cannot be part of the negotiations. He said Friday there was a high risk the talks would end because of what he called Russia’s “playbook on killing people.”

Ukraine has accused Russian troops of atrocities in areas they previously occupied near the capital Kyiv. Moscow denies the claims.

Lavrov said if the United States and other NATO countries are genuinely interested in solving the Ukraine crisis, they should stop sending arms to Kyiv.

French President Emmanuel Macron told Zelenskyy in a phone call yesterday that his country would step up military and humanitarian support to Ukraine.

In Washington, US President Joe BidenThe proposed $33 billion (€31 billion) aid package for Ukraine, including $20 billion for arms, has garnered bipartisan support. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Friday she hopes Congress will pass the package as soon as possible.

Earlier, Russian state television simulated Vladimir Putin about to launch a nuclear strike on three European capitals and declared that there would be “no survivors” in response to comments by the British Armed Forces Secretary supporting Ukrainian attacks on Russian infrastructure.

Hosted on Channel One 60 minutes The program announced the cities of London, Paris and Berlin could all be hit within 200 seconds of being launched by nuclear missiles as tensions rise amid the ongoing war in Ukraine.

It comes as ex-NATO chief Richard Sherriff warned the West to “prepare” for a “worst-case scenario” war with Russia in Ukraine, amid reports the Russian president could overthrow the country’s Victory Day parade Use May 9 to declare “total war” against its neighbor.

On the show, nationalist Rodina Party leader Aleksey Zhuravlyov reflected on what would happen if Russia launched nuclear weapons against Britain, saying: “One Sarmat missile and the British Isles will be no more.”

When asked about the comment of one of the hosts, he insisted he “seriously meant it”, while another host added that Britain also has nuclear weapons and that “no one is going to survive this war”.

The show’s producers then showed viewers a map that appeared to indicate missiles could be launched from Kaliningrad, the Russian enclave between Poland, Lithuania and the Baltic Sea.

It suggested that these could reach Berlin in 106 seconds, Paris in 200 seconds and London in 202 seconds.

Russia has described its actions in Ukraine as a “special operation” with the intended goal of disarming Ukraine and protecting it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist charge is unfounded and the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.

The war has reduced cities to rubble, killed thousands and forced five million Ukrainians to flee abroad. Having failed to capture the capital, Russia is now concentrating on eastern and southern Ukraine. Moscow hopes to take full control of the eastern Donbass region, which consists of Luhansk and Donetsk, parts of which were already controlled by Russian-backed separatists before the invasion.

Moscow said yesterday its artillery units hit 389 Ukrainian targets overnight.

Alexander Bogomaz, the governor of Russia’s Bryansk region, claimed air defenses prevented a Ukrainian plane from entering the region and as a result parts of an oil terminal were shelled, Russian news agencies reported.

The governor of another Russian region, Kursk, said yesterday several shells were fired from the direction of Ukraine at a checkpoint near the border. Roman Starovoit said in a video on his Telegram channel that there were no casualties or damage.

On the Ukrainian side, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said the Russians were shelling the entire region, “but they cannot penetrate our defenses.” He said civilians were continuing to be evacuated despite the difficult situation.

Gaidai said two schools and 20 houses were destroyed by Russian attacks in the Luhansk towns of Rubishne and Popasna on Friday.

Mykola Khanatov, head of the military administration in Popasna, said two buses sent to evacuate civilians from the city were fired upon by Russian troops on Friday and the drivers heard nothing. He did not say how many people were on the buses.

The Russian news agency TASS reported on the scene that 25 civilians, including six children, left the territory of the Azovstal Steel Works in the besieged southern port of Mariupol yesterday.

It was unclear where they had gone and Reuters could not independently verify the report.

There were also reports of attacks on locations outside Donbass, including in the southern Dnipro and Zaporizhia regions and in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, where the regional governor said a residential area was shelled overnight.

Britain’s Defense Ministry said yesterday Russia has been forced to pool and redeploy exhausted and disparate units from failed forays into north-east Ukraine. Reuters has not been able to independently verify reports of what happened on the ground.

Ukraine’s Deputy Agriculture Minister Taras Vysotskiy accused Russian forces of stealing hundreds of thousands of tons of grain in the territories they occupied and said he feared another 1.5 million tons would be stolen.

Ukraine said on Thursday that Russian grain theft from its territory increases the threat to global food security by disrupting spring planting and blocking Ukrainian ports.

The Kremlin on Friday denied the allegations, saying it didn’t know where the information came from.

According to the International Grains Council, Ukraine was the fourth largest grain exporter in the world in the 2020/21 season, selling 44.7 million tons abroad. The volume of exports has fallen sharply since the invasion.

Meanwhile, Serbia yesterday showed off a recently delivered Chinese anti-aircraft missile system, raising concerns in the west and among some of Serbia’s neighbors that a Balkan buildup could threaten the region’s fragile peace.

The sophisticated HQ-22 surface-to-air system was delivered last month by a dozen Chinese Air Force Y-20 transport planes in what is believed to be the largest airlift shipment of Chinese weapons to Europe.

Although Serbia officially aspires to European Union membership, it has armed itself mainly with Russian and Chinese weapons, including T-72 main battle tanks, MiG-29 fighter jets, Mi-35 attack helicopters and drones.

In 2020, US officials warned Belgrade against purchasing HQ-22 missile systems, the export version of which is known as the FK-3. They said that if Serbia really wants to join the EU and other Western alliances, it will have to adapt its military equipment to Western standards.

The Chinese missile system has often been compared to the American Patriot surface-to-air missile system and the Russian S-300, despite having a shorter range than the more advanced S-300.

Serbia is the first operator of Chinese missiles in Europe.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said at the end of the weapons demonstration at a military airport near Belgrade that the Chinese missiles, as well as other recently delivered military hardware, pose no threat to anyone and are only a “strong deterrent” against potential attackers.

“We will no longer allow anyone to be a punching bag,” Vucic said, apparently referring to NATO’s 78-day bombing of Serbia over its bloody crackdown on Kosovo Albanian separatists in 1999.

Serbia, which was at war with its neighbors in the 1990s, does not recognize Kosovo’s declared independence in 2008.

It still has frosty relations with NATO members Croatia and Montenegro, as well as Bosnia, whose Bosnian Serb separatist leader Milorad Dodik took part in the military exercise.

Vucic said Serbia is also negotiating to buy French multirole Dessault Rafale jets, as well as British Eurofighter Typhoon fighters.

He said only “political hurdles” could prevent the western planes from being bought.

There is a widespread concern that Russia could push its ally Serbia into armed conflict with its neighbors in an attempt, at least in part, to divert public attention from the war in Ukraine.

Despite voting for UN resolutions condemning the bloody Russian attacks in Ukraine, Serbia has refused to join international sanctions against its allies in Moscow or openly criticize the apparent atrocities committed by Russian forces in Ukraine. Russia ‘is not happening, but fighting continues’ – Donbass bombed but vital territory still in Ukrainian hands

Fry Electronics Team

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