© Reuters. One man looks out from the damaged Panfilova residential building, which was hit by shelling during the Ukraine-Russia conflict in Donetsk. This happened on June 20, 2022. REUTERS/Alexander Ermochenko

Natalia Zinets and Oleksandr Kuzhukhar

KYIV (Reuters). Ukraine acknowledged Tuesday that it was having difficulties with fighting in the east. Russian forces regrouped following increased pressure on Kiev and made advances in two cities in advance of an EU summit next week. This is expected to be welcoming Kyiv’s attempt to join the bloc.

According to the governor of Luhansk, the scene of some of the most brutal Russian incursions of recent weeks, Russian forces launched an attack on the region and gained territory Monday, even though the area was quiet over the night.

Serhiy Gaidai, the governor said, “It is a calm before storm.”

Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the Ukrainian president, had predicted that Russia would intensify its attacks before Thursday’s and Friday’s EU summit. Late Monday’s address to the nation by Volodymyr Zelenskiy was full of defiance and also spoke about “difficult” fighting in Luhansk For Sievierodonetsk (and its sister, Lysychansk)

We are fighting for Lysychansk and Sievierodonetsk. This is the hardest area. “We have the most difficult fighting here,” he stated. But we do have strong girls and guys there.”

Gaidai stated that most of Sievierodonetsk was under Russian control, except for the Azot chemical facility, where over 500 civilians including 38 children have been hiding out since weeks. He said that the road linking Sievierodonetsk with Lysychansk was constantly under shell fire.

Rodion Miroshnik of Luhansk People’s Republic was Russia’s ambassador. Miroshnik said that the forces of Luhansk People’s Republic were “moving south towards Lysychansk,” with several towns seeing firefights.

Telegram said that the hours ahead should lead to significant shifts in the balance between forces in the zone.

ATTRITIONAL PHASE

Russia deployed thousands of troops to Ukraine in a special operation on February 24, which it described as a “special operations” meant to reduce its military capability and expel dangerous nationalists.

The Russian government has passed a law that makes it illegal to spread “knowingly false” information, or report on any matter which could be discrediting the Russian military.

Dmitry Muratov (co-winner, 2021 Nobel Peace Prize) and the editor of an independent Russian newspaper sold his Nobel medal to raise $103.5 million for children affected by war. After being warned about its reporting of the conflict, his newspaper, which was fiercely critical towards President Vladimir Putin’s policies, stopped operations in Russia.

In recent weeks the war entered an attritional phase, as Russian forces concentrated on Ukrainian-controlled areas of Donbas. Russia claimed these parts on behalf of separatists.

Ukrainian officials said that there were three deaths from Russian shelling in Donetsk, while three others died in Kharkiv.

A Russian missile decimated a food storage facility in Odesa (the largest port on the Black Sea) Monday. This is according to Ukraine’s military.

While the United States and its European allies provided financial and weapons assistance to Ukraine, they did not directly participate in the conflict. But, there have been some American citizens who have offered their support to the Ukrainian cause.

Captured AMERICANS

Two Americans were detained in Ukraine by the Kremlin on Monday. They had been deemed mercenaries and must be held responsible.

Dmitry Peskov, Kremlin spokesperson, made the comments. These were first official acknowledgments that two people, Andy Huynh (27 years old) and Alexander Drueke (39 years old), were being held.

The spokesperson from the U.S. State Department stated that they were in contact with Russian authorities concerning any U.S. citizens captured.

“We call on the Russian government – as well as its proxies – to live up to their international obligations in their treatment of any individual, including those captured fighting in Ukraine.”

After being caught fighting in Ukraine, two Britons and one Moroccan were sentenced to death by a separatist court.

Peskov said that Brittney Griner (American basketball player) was currently being held in Russia for over two months and is now under investigation for drug offences. She was not considered a hostage.

In the war, at least two Americans died.

The international community has been concerned about restoring Ukrainian food exports, which are currently blocked by Russia’s de facto blockade. There are fears that Ukraine could be the main source of world-wide grain and oil supplies, creating a global crisis.

Russia attributes the current food crisis to Western sanctions that have restricted its exports.

Also, the war disrupted energy markets. This includes Russian oil and gas shipments to Europe. These shipments are still Russia’s largest source of energy, and their primary source of income. Russia claims EU sanctions have prevented Russia from restoring its pipeline equipment.

Russia threatened to strike back against EU member Lithuania, for prohibiting transport of metals, coal and construction materials to Kaliningrad. Kaliningrad is Russian territory on the Baltic Sea.

Russia’s foreign minister summoned Lithuania’s top diplomat. It demanded that the move be reversed or Russia would “reserve the right” to act to safeguard its national interest. Lithuania stated that EU sanctions had forced it to enforce this ban.