Live: Ukrainian officials urge mass evacuation as Russians bombard Donetsk

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Ukrainian officials have called on civilians to urgently evacuate the city of Sloviansk as Russian troops press towards it in their campaign to secure the Donbas region. Follow FRANCE 24’s live blog for all the latest developments. All times are Paris time, GMT+2.

6:26am: ‘Our task is to hold on’, Zelensky says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, speaking in his nightly address Tuesday, said he was continuing to press for upgraded anti-missile systems as air siren alerts sounded across much of the country, including the capital.

“The Russian army does not take any breaks,” he said. “Our task is to hold on.”

Russian forces on Tuesday were closing in on the smaller city of Siversk—which lies between Lysychansk and Sloviansk—after days of shelling there.

Two Ukrainian Red Cross minibuses were heading there to evacuate willing civilians, according to AFP reporters.

“Heavy fighting is taking place on the outskirts of Lugansk region near Lysychansk,” Luhansk governor Sergiy Gaiday said on Telegram.

To the southwest, in the Moscow-occupied Kherson region, Russian troops have deployed helicopters and artillery to try to stem Ukrainian counter-attacks.

A spokesman for Ukraine’s defence ministry said Tuesday that Russian forces outside Donbas were “trying to bind our troops in order to prevent them from moving to the battle areas”.

Kherson city, which lies close to Moscow-annexed Crimea, was the first major city to fall to Russian forces in February and has seen a campaign of so-called Russification since.

3:55am: Latvia to reinstate compulsory military service

Latvian Defence Minister Artis Pabriks on Tuesday said the Baltic state will reinstate compulsory military service following growing tension with neighbouring Russia amid Moscow’s war in Ukraine.

“The current military system of Latvia has reached its limit. Meanwhile we have no reason to think that Russia will change its behaviour,” Pabriks told reporters.

Latvia had scrapped mandatory service a few years after joining the NATO defence alliance. Since 2007, the EU member’s military has consisted of career soldiers along with National Guard volunteers who serve in the infantry part-time on weekends.

The country of under two million people, which borders both Belarus and Russia, currently only has 7,500 active-duty soldiers and National Guard members, backed by 1,500 NATO troops

1:53am: Russians moving into Ukraine’s Donetsk, says regional governor

Russian troops are engaged in heavy fighting and making their way into Ukraine’s Donetsk region after taking control of the last two towns in neighbouring Luhansk, the regional governor of Luhansk said on Tuesday.

Serhiy Gaidai said the Russian troops had sustained heavy losses in the long process of capturing the twin towns of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, but were channelling their efforts into moving southward.

“Heavy fighting is going on at the edge of Luhansk region…  All the forces of the Russian army and reserves have been redirected there… They are sustaining heavy losses,” Gaidai told Ukrainian television.

“A large quantity of equipment is being sent towards Donetsk region. Of course, after Luhansk region, Donetsk is at the top of their list.”

(FRANCE 24 with AP, AFP and REUTERS)

© France Médias Monde graphic studio

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