After other top European politicians, Chancellor Olaf Scholz is about to travel to Kyiv for the first time since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to a media report. The SPD politician wants to visit Ukraine before the G7 summit at the end of June, the “Bild am Sonntag” reported.
Meanwhile, fighting continues in the east of the country, in which the Russian army wants to use its superiority in artillery and ammunition to gain land.
In eastern Ukraine, fighting continues, among other things, for the city of Sievjerodonetsk. The Russian military fired on the civilian infrastructure in the city as well as in neighboring Lysychansk and three other places, the Ukrainian general staff said. Ukrainian units would have withstood Russian attacks from multiple directions. The information could not be independently verified.
Sieverodonetsk is the last major city in the Luhansk region not yet fully under the control of Russian troops or pro-Russian separatists.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke of ongoing street fighting. According to Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk, Ukrainian troops control a third of Sievarodonetsk. The city has been without electricity and water supply for around two months, he emphasized.
Fighting for the Azot chemical plant in Sievjerodonetsk also continues. On Saturday, pro-Russian separatists reported having surrounded the plant. “All escape routes are cut off for them,” wrote the ambassador of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic in Moscow, Rodion Miroshnik, on Telegram.
On Sunday night, the region’s governor, Serhiy Gaidai, said Ukraine would retain control of the area. According to Ukrainian information, around 800 people have fled to safety in several bunkers below the Azot plant, including around 200 employees of the plant and 600 residents of the industrial city.
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At the same time, Russia is trying to quickly tie occupied territories to itself. In the occupied southern Ukrainian region of Cherson, pensions will soon be paid in Russian rubles, as the Russian head of administration Vladimir Saldo announced on Saturday in the news service Telegram. This also applies to bills from energy and water suppliers – which would be free until the changeover.
Russian passports were handed over to the first 23 residents of the region on Saturday. Around 7,000 others had applied for a Russian passport, it said. Zelenskyy said in his speech that Russian passports are something like “a ticket to escape” there, as the Ukrainian army is making progress in the Kherson region.
In the past few days, Zelenskyy and other Ukrainian politicians have appealed to Western allies to send more heavy weapons and missiles as soon as possible. Because the conflict in eastern Ukraine is developing into an artillery duel in which the Russian army has an advantage thanks to larger stocks of weapons and ammunition.
According to Ukrainian and Western estimates, the Russian troops continue to record high losses. In his daily video speech on Saturday, Selenskyj spoke of around 32,000 Russian soldiers who have been killed so far. The day before, one of his advisers had put the Ukrainian army’s casualties at around 10,000 since the Russian invasion on February 24.
Selenskyj once again campaigned for his country to join the EU. He was convinced that the European Union could also be strengthened with the decision on candidate status for Ukraine.
At the same time he criticized the resistance in some parts of the EU to the accession plans. “What else needs to happen in Europe for the skeptics to realize that keeping Ukraine outside the European Union is damaging to Europe,” he asked. Ukraine had applied to join the EU in March – shortly after the Russian invasion.
During a visit to Kyiv on Saturday, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that the evaluation of Ukraine’s application for membership would be completed by the end of next week.