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‘It’s Just Hell There’: Russia Still Pounds Eastern Ukraine

A teddy bear is seen on a building destroyed by attacks in Chernihiv, Ukraine, Sunday, June 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)
A teddy bear is seen on a building destroyed by attacks in Chernihiv, Ukraine, Sunday, June 19, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)

Russia’s military kept grinding down Ukraine’s defenses Monday, with combat in eastern areas said to be entering a “decisive” phase, as the war’s consequences for food and fuel supplies increasingly weighed on minds around the globe.

In Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, which in recent weeks has become the focal point of Moscow’s attempt to impose its will on its neighbor, battles raged for the control of multiple villages, the local governor said.

Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said the Kremlin had ordered the Russian military to overrun the entire Luhansk region by next Sunday. Currently, Moscow’s forces control about 95% of the region.

Maliar said in televised remarks that “without exaggeration, decisive battles are taking place” in the area, where Ukrainian forces are desperately trying to avoid being encircled.

“We must understand that the enemy has an advantage both in terms of personnel and weapons, so the situation is extremely difficult. And at this very minute these decisive battles are ongoing at the maximum intensity,” Maliar added.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy repeated his plea for more Western weapons to fend off the Russian onslaught.

“We need your support, we need weaponry, weapons that will have better capabilities than the Russian weapons,” he told a forum in Milan that was organized by the ISPI geo-political think tank. He spoke by video link.

Zelenskyy added: “This is a matter of life or death.”

The villages where combat is fierce are around Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, two cities in the Luhansk region yet to be captured by the Russians, according to Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai.

Russian shelling and airstrikes on the industrial outskirts of Sievierodonetsk have intensified, he said.

Haidai told The Associated Press on Monday that the situation in Sievierodonetsk was “very difficult,” with the Ukrainian forces maintaining control over just one area — the Azot chemical plant, where a number of Ukrainian fighters, along with about 500 civilians, are taking shelter.

The Russians keep deploying additional troops and equipment in the area, he said.

“It’s just hell there. Everything is engulfed in fire, the shelling doesn’t stop even for an hour,” Haidai said in written comments.

Only a fraction of 100,000 people who used to live in Sievierodonetsk before the war remain in the city, with no electricity, communications, food or medicine.

Even so, Haidai said, the staunch Ukrainian resistance is preventing Moscow from deploying its resources to other parts of the country.

The British defense ministry noted that the war is not going all Russia’s way, despite its superior military assets.

Russian ground troops are “exhausted,” the defense ministry said in an intelligence report Monday. It blamed poor air support for Russia’s difficulty in making swifter progress on the ground.

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