‘Fierce’ fighting continues in Ukraine as Russian troops enter Donbas

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Russian troops entered the outskirts of the Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, a regional governor said on Monday, describing the fighting as “very fierce” in a city that become a key objective for Moscow’s offensive in the Donbas.

Shelling killed two civilians and wounded five others as Russian troops advanced into the city’s southeastern and northeastern areas fringes, Luhansk region Governor Serhiy Gaidai said.

Incessant shelling has left Ukrainian forces defending ruins in Sievierodonetsk, but their refusal to withdraw has slowed a massive Russian offensive across the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.

“Some 90 percent of buildings are damaged. More than two-thirds of the city’s housing stock has been completely destroyed. There is no telecommunication,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a televised speech.

“Capturing Sievierodonetsk is a fundamental task for the occupiers … We do all we can to hold this advance.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Sunday said the “liberation” of the Donbas, an industrial region which includes Luhansk and Donetsk, was an “unconditional priority” for Moscow.

Ukrainian forces in the Donbas said they were on the defensive all day on Sunday. Russian forces fired on 46 communities in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, killing at least three civilians, wounding two others or destroying or damaging 62 civilian buildings. Russian shelling also continued on Sunday across several regions such as in Novy Buh in Mykolaiv and Sumy.

The EU governments have been unable to agree on a sixth package of sanctions against Moscow because the proposed embargo on Russian oil is not acceptable to Hungary and a big problem for Slovakia and the Czech Republic.

Ahead of the summit, German Economy Minister Robert Habeck expressed fears that EU unity was “starting to crumble” and draft conclusions of the meeting, seen by Reuters, indicated there will be little in terms of new decisions.

But EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said “there will be an agreement in the end,” with a deal on the next sanctions package by Monday afternoon.–Reuters