Ukraine and Russia: what you need to know

Russian forces have seized areas along a frontline river in eastern Ukraine, and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy predicts Moscow will escalate attacks ahead of a summit of European leaders expected to welcome Kiev’s bid to join the EU.

STRUGGLE

* Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of Ukraine’s Luhansk region, scene of the heaviest Russian attacks in recent weeks, said the situation along the entire frontline there was “extremely difficult” as of Monday night.

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* Gaidai said Russian troops controlled most of the city of Sievierodonetsk, apart from the Azot chemical plant, where hundreds of civilians have been taking refuge for weeks. He also said that the road connecting Sievierodonetsk and its twin city of Lysychansk with the city of Bakhmut was under constant shell fire.

* Moscow’s Separatist proxies claimed to have captured Toshkivka, a town on the predominantly Ukrainian-held west bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, south of Sievierodonetsk. Gaidai acknowledged that the Russian attack on Toshkivka “had some success”.

* Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War think tank in Washington wrote: “Russian forces will likely be able to take Sievierodonetsk in the coming weeks, but at the cost of concentrating most of their available forces in this small area.”

* Ukrainian officials on Monday reported three civilian deaths from Russian shelling in the Donetsk region and three others from shelling in the Kharkiv region.

* A Russian missile attack destroyed a food storage facility in Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odessa after the Russian-installed leader of the annexed Crimea peninsula said Ukrainian forces had attacked drilling platforms owned by a Crimean oil and gas company.

* The governor of Russia’s Bryansk region said the border village of Suzemka was shelled from northern Ukraine, one person was injured and a power plant was damaged.

PRISONERS

* The Kremlin said Americans captured in Ukraine were “mercenaries” who shot at Russian soldiers and are not covered by the Geneva Convention, RIA reported, quoting Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov as saying they should take responsibility for their “crimes ” take over.

* Russian media on Friday aired pictures and brief interviews with two captured Americans identified as Andy Huynh, 27, and Alexander Drueke, 39, both from Alabama.

* RIA also quoted the Kremlin as saying that American basketball star Brittney Griner, who has been jailed in Russia since February, faces criminal charges. Russia has previously said it arrested her for possession of vape cartridges containing hash oil.

ECONOMIC AND SECURITY IMPLICATIONS

* At a summit on Thursday and Friday, European Union leaders are expected to give Ukraine their blessing to become an official candidate country – a decision seen in Kyiv as a triumph.

* Russia warned NATO member Lithuania that unless Moscow quickly lifts a ban on the transit of goods to Russia’s Baltic exclave of Kaliningrad, it will take tacit action to defend its national interests.

* EU foreign ministers will meet in Luxembourg on Monday to discuss ways to free millions of tons of grain stranded in Ukraine due to Russia’s blockade of ports on the Black Sea.

* Several EU countries are pushing to start work on a new package of sanctions against Russia and Belarus over the invasion of Ukraine, and also want to give Kyiv more military support, according to diplomats and a draft document.

* Europe’s biggest Russian gas buyers are scrambling to find alternative fuel sources, even considering burning more coal to cope with reduced gas flows from Russia that threaten an energy crisis in the winter if inventories aren’t replenished.

QUOTE

* “I hope that once the city has the benefit of firepower, it will hold and we can liberate it without having to leave it first.” – Sievierodonetsk mayor Oleksander Stryuk.

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