Ukraine slams Russian attacks on Donbas ‘hell’

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Incessant bombardment has turned Ukraine’s Donbas region into “hell”, President Volodymyr Zelensky said, as the first post-invasion trial of a Russian soldier for war crimes neared its closely watched climax Friday.

Zelensky’s government received a fresh boost as the US Congress approved a $40 billion aid package, including funds to enhance Ukraine’s armoured vehicle fleet and air defence system.

“In Donbas, the occupiers are trying to increase pressure,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address late Thursday. “There’s hell, and that’s not an exaggeration.”

Zelensky described the bombardment of Severodonetsk as “brutal and absolutely pointless”, as residents cowering in basements described an unending ordeal of terror.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said his forces’ campaign in Lugansk was “nearing completion”.

– ‘Truly sorry’ –

But Shishimarin’s lawyer Viktor Ovsyannikov said in closing arguments that the 21-year-old sergeant was “not guilty” of premeditated murder and war crimes.

The Russian shot dead Oleksandr Shelipov, 62, four days into the invasion, purportedly to avoid the civilian giving away his unit’s position after they had stolen a car. 

Ukraine is hoping instead to exchange the Azovstal soldiers for Russian prisoners.

Russia released a video appearing to show exhausted Ukrainian soldiers trudging out of the sprawling plant, after a siege forced the defenders and civilians to huddle in tunnels, enduring shortages of food, water and medicine.

US President Joe Biden has cast the Ukraine war as part of a great US-led struggle of democracy against authoritarianism.

– ‘We’re not idiots’ –

The United States and NATO’s chief expressed confidence of overcoming Turkish objections. And in Finland, one brewery has already crafted a special NATO beer.

Shoigu said the Kremlin would respond to any NATO expansion by creating more military bases in western Russia.

Russia and Ukraine produce 30 percent of the world’s wheat supply and the war has sent food prices surging. Russia is also a major exporter of fertiliser.

Washington called on Russia to allow exports of Ukrainian grain held up at Black Sea ports.

“On the one hand, insane sanctions are being imposed against us, on the other hand, they are demanding food supplies,” he said. “Things don’t work like that, we’re not idiots.” 

Originally published as Ukraine slams Russian attacks on Donbas ‘hell’


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