Artillery price

Ukraine’s Donbas ‘destroyed’ as Russian artillery and planes step up strikes

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KYIV – Russian forces shelled areas of Ukraine’s eastern Donbass by land and air, killing at least 13 civilians, the Ukrainian military said on Friday, and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the assaults had transformed the region in hell”.

As the war approached the three-month mark, the Russians were stepping up their efforts to subjugate the Donbass region, the Ukrainian General Staff said.

They hit civilian infrastructure with “massive” artillery fire, including several rocket launchers, the general staff said in a statement. Russian planes had also hit targets.

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Russian shelling in the Luhansk region of Donbass has killed 13 civilians in the past 24 hours, regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said. Twelve of those deaths occurred in the town of Sievierodonesk, but a Russian assault failed there, he said.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports and Russia denies targeting civilians.

“Donbass is completely destroyed,” President Zelenskiy said in a speech on Thursday evening. “It’s hell out there – and that’s no exaggeration.”

There were also constant strikes in the Odessa region in the south, he said.

Reuters could not independently verify the reports and Russia denies targeting civilians.

Russia’s focus on Donbass follows its failure to capture the capital Kyiv at the start of an invasion launched by Russian President Vladimir Putin on February 24.

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Thousands of people – many of them civilians – have been killed and entire towns flattened in Europe’s worst crisis in decades.

Almost a third of Ukrainians have fled their homes, including more than 6 million who left the country in a refugee exodus, while others remain trapped in cities pulverized by Russian bombardment.

Britain’s military intelligence said Friday that Russia is likely to step up its operations in Donbass once it finally secures the southern port city of Mariupol – the scene of a week-long siege and the most significant success of Russia in an otherwise hesitant campaign.

The region, an industrial power, compromises the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, which Moscow claims in the name of the separatists.

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Putin calls the invasion of Ukraine a “special military operation” to rid the country of fascists – a claim that Kyiv and its Western allies see as a baseless pretext for unprovoked war.

The Kremlin chief was due to hold a security council meeting later Friday.


Western powers, which have strongly condemned Russia’s actions and sought to isolate Moscow with a range of sanctions, have stepped up their support for Ukraine.

On Thursday, the rich Group of Seven countries agreed to provide Ukraine with $18.4 billion to compensate for lost revenue as war destroys its economy.

The US Senate has approved nearly $40 billion in new aid for Ukraine, by far the largest US aid package to date.

The White House is also working to get advanced anti-ship missiles into the hands of Ukrainian fighters to help defeat the Russian naval blockade, which has largely halted Ukraine’s food exports.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused Russia of using food as a weapon by holding supplies hostage not only for Ukrainians, but also for millions of people around the world. The war caused a spike in world prices for grain, cooking oil, fuel and fertilizer.

The EU has said it is looking for ways to use the frozen assets of Russian oligarchs to fund Ukraine’s reconstruction, while the US has not ruled out the possibility of imposing sanctions on countries that buy Russian oil.


Last week Russia scored its biggest victory since the invasion began, with the Kyiv government ordering the defenders of a steel mill in Mariupol to withdraw after a prolonged siege.

British military intelligence said as many as 1,700 troops were likely to have gone to the Azovstal steel plant, matching a similar number released by Moscow on Thursday.

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Ukrainian officials, who have tried to organize a prisoner exchange, declined to comment on the number, saying it could jeopardize rescue efforts.

Late Thursday, Sviatoslav Palamar, deputy chief of the Azov regiment defending the steelworks, posted an 18-second video in which he said he and other commanders were still inside the plant.

“There is a certain operation going on, the details of which I will not divulge,” he said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had registered hundreds of Azovstal prisoners now held by Russia, but it did not give a specific number.

The leader of the Russian-backed separatists who control the region said nearly half of the fighters remained inside the steelworks.

The injured were given medical treatment while those who were fit were taken to a penal colony and were treated well, he said.

(Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Max Hunder in Kyiv and a Reuters reporter in Mariupol; additional reporting by Reuters offices; Writing by Stephen Coates and Angus MacSwan; editing by Frank Jack Daniel)



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