Ukraine: Seven more civilians die in conflict hotspot amid Putin’s push to seize Donbas

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A boy sits amid shelled buildings in Kramatorsk in the eastern Ukranian region of Donbas (AFP via Getty Images)
A boy sits amid shelled buildings in Kramatorsk in the eastern Ukranian region of Donbas (AFP via Getty Images)

At least seven more civilians were reported to have been killed during Russia’s continued push to seize the Donbas region in eastern Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin’s forces have been trying to take full control of Donbas after having failed to seize Kyiv, or Ukraine’s second-biggest city Kharkiv, during the war which has lasted for three months.

The Donbas region is comprised of two separatist Moscow-backed provinces – Luhansk and Donetsk. More than 40 towns in both provinces have been shelled, according to the Ukrainian armed forces.

Thousands of Russian troops have been attacking the region from three sides in an attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces that have been holding out in the cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

Earlier this week, Ukraine accused Russia of blowing up a bridge connecting Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

In Lysychansk, one person was killed on Thursday and two were killed in the nearby village of Ustynivka on Wednesday. This is according to the region’s Kyiv-backed governor Serhiy Haidai, who said Russian airstrikes had hit targets including private houses and a humanitarian aid centre.

An image of an explosion blowing up a bridge connecting Severodonetsk and Lysychansk (via REUTERS)
An image of an explosion blowing up a bridge connecting Severodonetsk and Lysychansk (via REUTERS)

Police in Lysychansk are burying the bodies of civilians in mass graves, Mr Haidai also said – adding that some 150 people have been buried in a single grave in one district.

Eleven high-rise buildings were destroyed in Severodonetsk and eight in Lysychansk, the office of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky said on Thursday.

In Donbas at least 47 civilian buildings – including at least 38 homes and a school – have been damaged or destroyed in the attacks, it also said on social media.

There are about 8,000 Ukrainian prisoners of war in the region, Luhansk official Rodion Miroshnik was quoted by TASS news agency as saying.

He said: “There are a lot of prisoners. Now the total number is somewhere in the region of 8,000. That’s a lot, and literally hundreds are being added every day.”

Ten Russian attacks have been repelled, 62 Russian soldiers killed, and four tanks and four drones destroyed – the Ukrainian armed forces said.

Smoke rises during shelling in the city of Severodonetsk on 21 May 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)
Smoke rises during shelling in the city of Severodonetsk on 21 May 2022 (AFP via Getty Images)

Amid the fighting, Denis Pushilin – head of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic, called for Moscow’s military operation in the Donbas region to be accelerated, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

In Kharkiv – a city in northeast Ukraine that Russian forces have failed to capture – at least four civilians were killed and several wounded by shelling on Thursday, according to local authorities.

“The occupiers are shelling the regional centre again,” Kharkiv region Governor Oleh Synehubov wrote on the Telegram messaging app, urging residents to go to shelters.

In the northern Kharkiv region, governor Oleh Synehubov said two men – aged 82 and 64 – had been killed in shelling of the town of Balakliya and 10 other people were injured, including a nine-year-old girl.

Five other people were injured in various other places in the region, he wrote on the Telegram app.

Meanwhile, Russia sought to solidify its grip on the territory it has seized, Putin signed a decree to simplify the process for residents of newly captured districts to get Russian citizenship and passports.

Due to the loss of many thousands of troops, the Russian parliament on Wednesday scrapped the upper age limit for contractual military service. Previously, only Russians up to the age of 40 and foreigners up to the age of 30 could serve.

In response to Russia’s rule change, Mr Zelensky – in a late-night video address – said: “[They] no longer have enough young men, but they still have the will to fight. It will still take time to crush this will.”

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