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Photo of Ukrainian soldier looking at the destruction in a wall

A Ukrainian soldier in a village near the front lines of Mykolaiv

Celestino Arce Lavin/ZUMA
Anna Akage and Emma Albright

The 56th day of Russia’s invasion is also the second day of the all-out ground assault on the Donbas region of eastern Ukraine, with Ukrainian forces attempting to repel Moscow’s better equipped units.

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Kyiv-based Pravda.ua reports that Russia launched overnight airstrikes on civilian infrastructure in Donbas, as well as in the area around Ukraine’s second-biggest city Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk region.

The situation in the Donbas port city of Mariupol remains desperate, with Ukrainian troops defending the last bastion of soldiers and civilians trapped in the Azovstal steel plant, which has been targeted by Russian missiles.

In one glimmer of hope early this afternoon, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk said Russia has agreed to a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from Mariupol — though it remains to be seen if that will be respected.

Grim Assessments From Frontline Of Donbas, Mariupol:

Major Serhiy Volinski, commander of Ukraine’s 36th Marines Brigade, who is fighting in Mariupol, spoke with Pravda, suggesting two possible options for saving the city and its inhabitants: "The first is a sharp military operation, which will take place right now with all the necessary equipment. A large, well-equipped group of forces, which in one fell swoop, with a sharp and deep strike, will join us in our area of defense. This option is possible, though difficult and risky. Another one is a political solution, which is more realistic.”

The ashes of Mariupol

Reporting for Italian daily La Stampa, Francesco Semprini spoke to Volodymyr Rebalkin, commander of the Ukrainian forces in the town of Svyatogorsk in Donbas. The prospects are grim: “Nobody has any intention of retreating or surrendering. The invaders will have all that they desire: a graveyard.”

U.S., UK & Canada Pledge Arms While Germany Says It’s Maxed Out

The United States, the United Kingdom and Canada have pledged to send a major new shipment of weapons to Ukraine, as Russia launches its offensive in Donbas. This comes as German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his country’s military has nearly exhausted the weaponry that it can send to Ukraine, and is trying to work with manufactures to increase production.

Russia’s Medvedev Issues Threat To Foreign Fighters

Former Russian Interim President Dmitry Medvedev, who currently serves as a top security advisor to Vladimir Putin, has issued a not-so-subtle threat to foreign soldiers fighting on Ukraine’s behalf. The deputy chairman of the Russian security council sent the warning out on the Russian messaging platform Telegram: “To us, mercenaries are not volunteers. They are not legitimate combatants, they are not covered by the Geneva Conventions. Therefore, foreign mercenaries in Ukraine who do not surrender to our troops, along with their Banderite mentors, are subject to denazification in the first place. They will have to answer for their actions in full. Of course, if they remain alive…”

Read more about the meaning of Russia’s so-called “denazification” campaign

Zelensky Urges “No Cooperation” In Russian-Held Areas

President Volodymyr Zelensky paid tribute to residents of Russian-occupied settlements for refusing to cooperate with the enemy. He stated this in a video statement. "On the east of our country the occupants are trying to demonstrate at least something that can be presented in Russia as if the Ukrainians were ready to cooperate with the Russian structures. It looks miserable,” he said in a video message. “The situation is quite clear — Ukrainians in all regions of our country support the Ukrainian national identity. They support our national statehood. No cooperation with the occupants. No support for the collaborators. If we are more principled, if you are more principled, normal life will return sooner."

Ukrainians Forced To Relocate To Russia Include 121,000 Children

Some 500,000 Ukrainians have been forced to relocate to Russia, including 121,000 children, reports Kyiv-based Pravda. Meanwhile Ukrainians are being forced to fill out documents that prohibit them from leaving the Russian regions for two years. The reports of the relocation of Ukrainians to economically depressed regions of the Russian Federation, includes at least 20,000 Ukrainians said to be held in camps on the Mangush-Nikolsky-Yalta line and about 5,000-7,000 in Bezimenne of Donetsk region.

Displaced Ukrainians Tops 5 Million

The United Nations now estimates that more than 5 million Ukrainians have been displaced by the war, which includes refugees who have fled the country and those who have been forced to move elsewhere in Ukraine. Swedish daily, Dagens Nyheter, featured the plight of migrants on its front page.

Hungary Won’t Join EU On Russia Energy Sanctions

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjártó said his countrywill not join sanctions of the European Union against Russian oil and gas: "The Hungarian people cannot pay for this war, so we do not support the imposition of sanctions on gas and oil supplies," Szijjártó said at a Tuesday press conference.

Kharkiv Zoo Employees Shot To Death

Two employees of the famous Ecopark zoo located in Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv, had stayed behind when the war began to help feed and care for the animals. After they went missing in early March, Zoo officials report that the dead bodies of both have been found, saying they had been shot by Russian soldiers after trying to barricade themselves in a room.

Draghi Pushes Price Cap For Natural Gas To Wean EU Off Russian Energy

Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi says he’s rallying fellow Europeans around a new proposal for a price cap on natural gas a way to wean the continent off its dependence on Russian energy supplies. Draghi, the former head of the European Central Bank, laid out his position in a recent interview with Milan-based daily Corriere della Sera.

Russian Oligarch Denounces War

Russian billionaire and founder of Tinkoff banks, Oleg Tinkov, has called the war in Ukraine a “massacre” and is urging to end this “crazy” conflict. The statement, issued on an Instagram post, is the strongest criticism yet made by a prominent Russian oligarch.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Putin’s Kyiv Obsession, From Failed Feb. 24 Blitz To Coming Winter Siege

Kremlin war aims in Ukraine have never been entirely clear. Part of that is due to the setbacks the Russian army has suffered; and now it appears that both the strategic and symbolic objective of reducing the capital of Kyiv to its knees is again very much on Vladimir Putin's mind.

photo of a passerby in a residential area of Kyiv

Gray skies over Kyiv

Hennadii Minchenko/Ukrinform/ZUMA
Anna Akage

The notion that Vladimir Putin was only interested in the contested southeastern regions of Ukraine vanished on Feb. 24. His so-called “special military operation” was in fact an all-out invasion of the nation — with Kyiv as the central objective.

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Russian forces attacked the capital from the direction of the Chernobyl exclusion zone and Belarus. In addition to regular troops, OMON special police units and troops loyal to Chechen strongman Ramzan Kadyrov were directed toward Kyiv.

High among the orders was the assassination of the President of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, along with his family and top advisers. Oleksiy Danilov, a top military chief, Russian special forces tried in vain several times to pierce the presidential quarters in the first days of the war.

Those efforts, as well as the wider attempt to capture Kyiv, were repelled by Ukrainian forces, with the battles for the city and its surroundings lasting just over a month. By early April, Moscow was diverting its war effort elsewhere, and the capital would gradually regain some semblance of daily normality.

Nearly nine months later, Russian troops have gained then lost much of the territory they have occupied, and are moving steadily back closer to the border of the 2014 conflict. During this time, the south and east of the country suffered heavy losses, and entire cities were destroyed. The retreat of Russian forces from Kherson earlier this month marked another low moment, with signs that the Ukrainian army is ready to move farther east — and perhaps even head toward the Crimean peninsula.

So where is the Kremlin looking now? Yes, Kyiv again.

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