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Russian forces advance up to the CL highway to the cities of Donbass

Three months after invading Ukraine, Russia has abandoned its assault on the capital, Kyiv, and is trying to consolidate its control over the eastern industrial region of Donbas, where it has supported a separatist insurgency since 2014.

She dropped thousands of troops in her offensive, and attacked from three sides in an attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces at Severodonetsk and Lyschansk. The fall of the two cities, which lie on the Siverskiy Donets, would bring almost all of Luhansk province under Russian control, a major objective in the Kremlin’s war.

“Russia has an advantage, but we are doing everything we can” in the battle for the region, said General Oleksiy Gromov, deputy chief of the Main Operations Department of the Ukrainian General Staff.

About 50 Russian soldiers reached the highway and “managed to walk for some time. They even set up some kind of checkpoint there,” said Serhiy Gaidai, governor of Luhansk province.

“The barrier was broken and they were pushed back. In other words, the Russian army does not control the road now, but it is bombing it,” he said in an interview posted on social media. He hinted at further Ukrainian withdrawals, saying troops could leave “a colony, maybe two. We have to win the war, not the battle.”

“It is clear that our men are slowly retreating to more fortified positions – we have to hold off this crowd,” he said.

Western military analysts see the Battle of the Two Cities as a potential turning point in the war, now that Russia has set its main objective as the capture of the East.

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Reuters journalists working in Russian-controlled territory to the south have seen evidence of Moscow’s advance in the town of Svetlodarsk, where Ukrainian forces withdrew earlier this week.

The city is now under the strict control of pro-Russian fighters, who have occupied the local government building and hung a red flag bearing the Soviet hammer and sickle on the door.

Drone footage filmed by Reuters from the deserted nearby battlefield showed dozens of craters pointing to a green field surrounded by destroyed buildings. The pro-Russian fighters moved into the trenches.

Les rcents gains de la Russie dans le Donbas font suite la reddition de la garnison ukrainienne de Mariupol la semaine dernire, et suggrent un changement de dynamique sur le champ de bataille aprs des semaines au cours desquelles a les eva le pr uk Northeast.

“Recent Russian gains provide a sobering examination of the near-term outlook,” defense analyst Michael Kaufman, director of Russia studies at the US think tank CNA, wrote on Twitter.

He wrote that Russian forces had broken through the Ukrainian Popasna lines, south of Severodonetsk, and were threatening to encircle the Ukrainian forces.

The extent to which this Pupasna breach threatens the general position of Ukraine depends on whether or not Russian forces gain ground.

Adviser to the Ukrainian Interior Minister, Vadim Denisenko, announced during a media briefing that 25 Russian battalions are trying to besiege the Ukrainian forces.

destroyed houses

A few weeks ago, Ukrainian forces advanced and pushed Russian forces from the outskirts of Kharkiv towards the Russian border. But Moscow appears to have halted its withdrawal there, retaining a strip of land along the border and preventing Ukrainian forces from cutting Russian supply lines running east of the city to Donbass.

Multiple loud explosions were heard in the center of Kharkiv on Thursday as Russian forces moved into their positions in villages to the north and maintained control. Governor Oleh Senehubov said the bombing killed four people.

“It’s noisy here, but it’s at least our home,” said Marina Karapirova, 38, as another explosion sounded nearby. She had returned to Kharkiv after fleeing to Poland and Germany earlier in the war. “It can happen at any time, night, day: that’s what life is like here.”

The advance from Donbass was supported by heavy artillery bombardment. The Ukrainian Armed Forces said that more than 40 towns in the region were bombed in the past 24 hours, destroying or damaging 47 civilian sites, including 38 homes and schools.

In a video address to the leaders of the countries of the former Soviet Union, President Vladimir Putin downplayed the impact of sanctions imposed by Western countries and the suspension of many global companies from operations in Russia.

“Representatives of our companies, of course, face problems, especially in the field of supply chains and transportation. But, nevertheless, everything can be modified, and everything can be built in a new way,” Putin said.

Russian debt bailiffs have confiscated more than 7.7 billion rubles ($123.2 million) from Google, which the US technology giant was ordered to pay as part of a fine, Interfax news agency reported. Google’s Russian unit said last week it planned to file for bankruptcy after authorities seized its bank account.

Global attention this week focused on Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s ports on the Black Sea, which has halted exports from one of the world’s largest suppliers of grain and cooking oil.

Western countries claim that Moscow is blackmailing poor countries into causing a global food crisis. Russia says it will open ports if sanctions are lifted.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Moscow expected Ukraine to accept its demands in any future peace talks. Kyiv wants to recognize Russian sovereignty over the crime peninsula, which Moscow seized in 2014, as well as the independence of territories claimed by separatists.

Addressing dignitaries in Davos, Switzerland, German Chancellor Olaf Schulz said Putin should not be allowed to impose peace terms.

“There will be no peace for granted,” Schultz said. Ukraine will not accept that and neither will we.”

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