Blasts rock Ukraine southern city as Russia grinds out gains in the east

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HOUSES “BURNING DOWN”

Russian forces seized Sievierodonetsk, a major city in Luhansk this month, after some of the heaviest fighting of the four-month-old war that pounded whole districts into rubble. Other settlements now face similar bombardment.

“Private houses in attacked villages are burning down one by one,” Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Telegram, adding that shelling stopped Lysychansk residents from dousing fires.

Ukraine has appealed for more weapons from the West, saying its forces are heavily outgunned by the Russian military.

Troops on a break from the fighting and speaking in Konstyantynivka, a market town about 115km west of Lysychansk, said they had managed to keep the supply road to the embattled city open, for now, despite Russian bombardment.

“We still use the road because we have to, but it’s within artillery range of the Russians,” said one soldier, who usually lives in Kyiv but asked not to be named, as comrades relaxed nearby, munching on sandwiches or eating ice cream.

“The Russian tactic right now is to just shell any building we could locate ourselves at. When they’ve destroyed it, they move on to the next one,” the soldier said.

Russia has also struck cities well behind the frontline. A missile slammed into an apartment block near the southern port city of Odesa on Friday, which the authorities said killed at least 21 people. A shopping mall was hit on Monday in the central city of Kremenchuk, leaving at least 19 dead.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy denounced the strikes in an address on Friday as “conscious, deliberately targeted Russian terror and not some sort of error or a coincidental missile strike”. Moscow has denied such charges.

Thousands of civilians have been killed and cities levelled since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb 24 in what Moscow calls a “special military operation” to root out nationalists. Ukraine and its Western allies say it is an unprovoked war of aggression.

Despite being battered in the east, Ukrainian forces have made some advances elsewhere, including forcing Russia to withdraw from Snake Island, a Black Sea outcrop about 140 km (85 miles) southeast of Odesa that Moscow captured at the start of the war.

Russia had used Snake Island to impose a blockade on Ukraine, one of the world’s biggest grain exporters and a major producer of seed for vegetable oils. The disruptions have helped fuel a surge in global grain and food prices.

Russia, also a big grain producer, denies it has caused the food crisis, blaming Western sanctions for hurting its exports.

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