Home / US & World / Ukraine says Russia has returned remains of 210 fighters killed during the battle for Mariupol

Ukraine says Russia has returned remains of 210 fighters killed during the battle for Mariupol

Russia is deploying troop reinforcements in Eastern Ukraine to help capture a key city, a Ukrainian official said Tuesday, as Moscow’s artillery kept up a barrage aimed at grinding down Ukrainian defences. 

Ukraine agriculture official says grain exports will be limited even if Russia’s blockade ends now.

Updates from Day 104 of the invasion

  • Russia says it controls nearly all of Luhansk, one of two main Donbas regions.
  • Ukraine presidential adviser tries to boost morale in face of Russian advances.
  • Removal of bodies from Mariupol steel mill site continues.
  • Ukraine official says grain exports would be two-thirds less if Russia’s blockade continues.

Russia is deploying troop reinforcements in Eastern Ukraine to help capture a key city, a Ukrainian official said Tuesday, as Moscow’s artillery kept up a barrage aimed at grinding down Ukrainian defences.

Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai told The Associated Press that Russian forces control the industrial outskirts of Severodonetsk, one of two cities in the Luhansk region still in Ukrainian hands.

“Toughest street battles continue, with varying degrees of success,” Haidai said. “The situation constantly changes, but the Ukrainians are repelling attacks.”

Russia appears bent on capturing the entire eastern Donbas part of Ukraine, which is made up of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Though while the Kremlin’s forces have superior firepower, the Ukrainians soldiers — among them the country’s most well-trained forces — are entrenched and have the capability to counterattack.

“Our heroes are not giving up positions in Severodonetsk,” President Volodymyr Zelensky said in an overnight video address.

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Russia claimed Tuesday its forces have control of nearly all of the Luhansk region.

Russia’s Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said Moscow’s forces have seized the residential quarters of Severodonetsk and are fighting to take control of an industrial zone on its outskirts and the nearby towns.

Shoigu added that Russian troops were pressing their offensive toward the town of Popasna and noted that they have taken control of Lyman and Sviatohirsk and 15 other towns in the region. Popasna is a town with a pre-war population of 20,000 located about 30 kilometres south of Severodonetsk.

Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak urged his people not to be downhearted about the battlefield reverses.

“Don’t let the news that we’ve ceded something scare you,” he said in a video address. “It is clear that tactical manouevres are ongoing. We cede something, we take something back.”

Ukraine hopes to evacuate citizens from Donetsk cities

Moscow’s forces also kept up an artillery barrage of Lysychansk, a city close to Severodonetsk almost fully controlled by Russian troops.

Haidai said Russian troops shelled a local market, a school and a college building, destroying the latter. Three wounded people were sent to hospitals in other parts of Ukraine, he said.

“A total destruction of the city is underway, Russian shelling has intensified significantly over the past 24 hours. Russians are using scorched earth tactics,” Haidai said.

In all, Ukrainian forces had repelled 10 Russian attacks over the previous 24 hours, according to Haidai. His report couldn’t be independently verified.

The Donetsk regional governor, Pavlo Kyrylenko, told Ukrainian television there was constant shelling along the front line, with Russia attempting to push towards Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, the two biggest Ukrainian-held cities in Donetsk.

Kyrylenko said efforts were underway to evacuate people from several towns, some under attack day and night, including Sloviansk where about 24,000 residents, around a quarter of the population, still remains.

“People are now understanding, though it is late, that it is time to leave,” he said.

In its nightly update, the Ukrainian military said two civilians were killed in Russian shelling in the Donbas, and Russian forces had fired at more than 20 communities, using artillery and airstrikes.

Russia claims to have taken out artillery

Ukraine is receiving weapons and ammunition from the West to help fend off relentless Russian attacks. That assistance has become a target for Russian artillery and warplanes.

Russia claimed Tuesday its forces took out two artillery systems given by the United States and a howitzer supplied by Norway.

Maj.-Gen. Igor Konashenkov said the Russian artillery barrage destroyed other Ukrainian equipment in the country’s east while the Russian air force hit Ukrainian troops and equipment concentrations and artillery positions.

Konashenkov’s claims couldn’t be independently confirmed.

In Kyiv, meanwhile, autopsies were planned on dozens of Ukrainian fighters killed at the Azovstal steelworks.

The bodies were returned to Ukraine by the Russian occupiers of the fortress-like plant in the destroyed city of Mariupol, where their last-ditch stand became a symbol of resistance against Moscow’s invasion.

The Azov Regiment was among the Ukrainian units that defended the steelworks for nearly three months before surrendering in May under relentless Russian attacks from the ground, sea and air.

It was unclear how many bodies might remain at the plant.

Grain exports would be severely limited: Ukraine

Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, in what it calls a “special military operation” to stamp out what it sees as threats to its security. Ukraine and its Western allies call this a baseless pretext for a war to grab territory.

Russia’s blockade of Ukraine ports have hampered exports of grain from one of the world’s largest producers.

Ukraine grain exports obstructed by Russian invasion

More than 20 million tonnes of harvested Ukrainian grain is stuck inside the country because of Russia’s blockade of major ports.

Ukraine will only be able to export a maximum of two million tonnes of grains per month if Russia refuses to lift its blockade of the country’s Black Sea ports, Taras Vysotskyi, Ukraine’s first deputy minister of Agrarian Policy and Food, said on Tuesday. Vysotskyi made the comments while speaking via video link to participants at an International Grains Council (IGC) conference in London.

He said even if Russia’s port blockade is lifted, Ukraine would need about six months to demine the waters around its Black Sea ports, meaning the world would remain short of grains for some time.

Russia destroyed the second biggest grain terminal in Ukraine. Millions across the globe will face more food insecurity. Russia’s appetite is growing. Now they want not only to eliminate Ukrainians but to put the world on the verge of famine. Helping Ukraine will help avoid this.

—@OlegNikolenko_

Ukraine is trying to export its vast stores of grain by road, river and rail at present to help avert a global food crisis, but these routes face severe capacity constraints.

Before Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, the country was able to export up to six million tonnes of grains a month.

Global wheat prices hit record highs in March and the surge in food prices has triggered protests across developing countries, as well as contributing to an acceleration in headline inflation rates throughout the world.

The United Nations is trying to broker a deal to get Ukraine’s grain shipped from its ports. Russia has said it wants Western sanctions lifted as part of the deal and has also accused Ukraine of mining its own waters.

European Council President Charles Michel on Monday accused Russia of using food supplies as “a stealth missile against developing countries” and blamed the Kremlin for the looming global food crisis, prompting Moscow’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, to walk out of a Security Council meeting.

Shoigu said on Tuesday the Ukrainian ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol, seized by Russian forces, have been de-mined and are ready to resume grain shipments.

With files from Reuters

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