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WRAPUP 5-Ukraine says Russia pounding Donbas, failing to take targets

reuters.com · 04/30/2022 00:07
WRAPUP 5-Ukraine says Russia pounding Donbas, failing to take targets

Russia continues assault on eastern Ukraine

Ukraine says Russians 'not succeeding' in taking targets

Russia's Lavrov: lifting sanctions is part of peace talks

U.S. Congress to pass Ukraine aid and weapons package soon

By Natalia Zinets

- Russian forces pounded Ukraine's eastern Donbas region on Saturday but failed to capture three target areas, Ukraine's military said, while Moscow said Western sanctions on Russia and arms shipments to Ukraine were impeding peace negotiations.

The Russians were trying to capture the areas of Lyman in Donetsk and Sievierodonetsk and Popasna in Luhansk, the General Staff of Ukraine's Armed Forces said in a daily update. "Not succeeding - the fighting continues," it said.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, in remarks published early on Saturday, said lifting Western sanctions on Russia was part of the peace talks, which he said were difficult but continued daily by video link. nL2N2WS01Q

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has insisted since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24 that sanctions needed to be strengthened and could not be part of negotiations. He said on Friday there was a high risk the talks would end because of what he called Russia's "playbook on murdering people".

Ukraine accuses Russian troops of atrocities in areas near the capital, Kyiv, that they previously occupied. Moscow denies the claims.

Lavrov said that if the United States and other NATO countries were truly interested in resolving the Ukrainian crisis, they should stop sending weapons to Kyiv. nL2N2WS00K

French President Emmanuel Macron told Zelenskiy during a call on Saturday that his country would step up military and humanitarian support for Ukraine.

In Washington, U.S. President Joe Biden's proposed $33 billion aid package for Ukraine, including $20 billion for weapons, has received bipartisan support. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on Friday she hoped Congress would pass the package as soon as possible. nL2N2WR1UA


'CANNOT GET THROUGH'

Russia calls its actions in Ukraine a "special operation" to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists. Ukraine and the West say the fascist allegation is baseless and the war is an unprovoked act of aggression.

The war has turned cities to rubble, killed thousands and forced 5 million Ukrainians to flee abroad. After failing to capture the capital, Russia is now focusing on the east and south of Ukraine.

Moscow hopes to take full control of the eastern Donbas region made up of Luhansk and Donetsk, parts of which were already controlled by Russian-backed separatists before the invasion.

Moscow said on Saturday its artillery units had struck 389 Ukrainian targets overnight.

Alexander Bogomaz, the governor of Russia's Bryansk region, said air defences had prevented a Ukrainian aircraft from entering the region, and as a result shelling had hit parts of an oil terminal, Russian news agencies reported.

The governor of another Russian region, Kursk, said several shells were fired from the direction of Ukraine on Saturday at a checkpoint near its border. Roman Starovoit said in a video on his Telegram channel that there were no casualties or damage.

On the Ukrainian side, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said the Russians were shelling all over the region "but they cannot get through our defence". He said civilians would continue to be evacuated despite the difficult situation.

Gaidai said two schools and 20 houses were destroyed by Russian attacks on Friday in the Luhansk towns of Rubizhne and Popasna.

Mykola Khanatov, head of military administration in Popasna, said two buses sent to evacuate civilians from the town were fired on by Russian troops on Friday and there was no word from the drivers. He did not say how many people were on the buses.

Russia's TASS news agency, reporting from the scene, said 25 civilians, including six children, had left the territory of the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged southern port of Mariupol on Saturday. It was unclear where they had gone, and Reuters could not independently verify the report.

There were also reports of attacks on places outside the Donbas, including in the southern Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia areas and the northeastern city of Kharkiv, where the regional governor said a residential area had been shelled overnight.

Britain's defence ministry said on Saturday that Russia had been forced to merge and redeploy depleted and disparate units from failed advances in northeastern Ukraine. nFWN2WR2ZY

Reuters could not independently verify the reports on what was happening on the ground.

GRAIN, FUEL

Ukraine's deputy agriculture minister Taras Vysotskiy accused Russian forces of stealing hundreds of thousands of tonnes of grain in the areas they occupy, and said he feared an additional 1.5 million tonnes were at risk of being stolen. nL5N2WS09N

Ukraine had said on Thursday that Russian theft of grain from its territory was increasing the threat to global food security posed by disruptions to spring sowing and the blocking of Ukrainian ports.

The Kremlin on Friday denied the allegations, saying it did not know where the information was coming from.

According to International Grains Council data, Ukraine was the world's fourth-largest grain exporter in the 2020/21 season, selling 44.7 million tonnes abroad. The volume of exports has fallen sharply since the invasion.

Zelenskiy said in his evening address on Friday that fuel shortages would end soon in Ukraine even though Russian forces had damaged a number of oil depots. Economy Minister Yulia Svyrydenko said Ukraine's operators had secured contracts with European suppliers.


Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right nownL5N2WP6TP

TIMELINE-Russia's invasion of Ukraine enters third monthnL5N2WI2ER

Graphic on Russian invasionhttps://graphics.reuters.com/UKRAINE-CRISIS/zdpxokdxzvx/

SPECIAL REPORT-How military technology reaches Russia in breach of U.S. export controls nL5N2WR6DP

(Additional reporting by Reuters journalists; Writing by Estelle Shirbon; Editing by Catherine Evans, Frances Kerry and Hugh Lawson)

((estelle.shirbon@thomsonreuters.com))