Russia is continuing what British officials have called a “creeping advance” of Ukraine’s Donbas region as Russian President Vladimir Putin warned a new threat of military escalation in Ukraine.
Russian troops blew up bridges and shelled apartments in Sievierodonetsk and neighboring Lysychansk, the last two major cities of the Luhansk province still held by Ukraine. If captured, Putin would take control of the contested area.
The British Defense Ministry said Sunday that Ukrainian forces counterattacked Sieverodonetsk, likely blunting Russia’s momentum there.
Military analysts say Russia hopes to overrun Ukraine’s embattled eastern industrial Donbas region, where Russia-backed separatists have fought the Ukrainian government since 2014, before the arrival of any U.S. weapons that might turn the tide. The Pentagon said last week that it will take at least three weeks to get the U.S. weapons onto the battlefield.
Elsewhere, Russian airstrikes in the eastern city of Druzhkivka destroyed buildings and left at least one person dead, a Ukrainian official said. Residents described waking to the sound of missile strikes, with rubble and glass falling down around them.
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►NATO kicked off nearly a two-week U.S.-led naval exercise on the Baltic Sea on Sunday with more than 7,000 sailors, airmen and marines from 16 nations, including two aspiring to join the military alliance, Finland and Sweden.
►Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Twitter that he’s embarking Tuesday on a multi-stop international trip that will conclude with a meeting of NATO defense ministers in Brussels to discuss Ukraine, as well as the applications of Sweden and Finland to NATO.
Ukrainian official pushes back on Macron
Mykhailo Podolyak, adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, on Sunday pushed back on French President Emmanuel Macron’s warning against humiliating Russia despite its “historic” mistake of invading Ukraine.
“We must not humiliate Russia so that the day when the fighting stops we can build an exit ramp through diplomatic means,” Macron said, it was reported Friday in French media. “I am convinced that it is France’s role to be a mediating power.”
Sunday on Twitter, Podolyak said, “While someone asks not to humiliate, the Kremlin resorts to new insidious attacks. Today’s missile strikes at Kyiv have only 1 goal — kill as many as possible.”
He then called for more weapons to fight Russia, as well as additional sanctions.
Contributing: The Associated Press