Ukraine’s Beleaguered Heartland Now Serves As The Bloody Stage On Which Russia’s War Could Be Decided

Ukraine’s Beleaguered Heartland Now Serves As The Bloody Stage On Which Russia’s War Could Be Decided

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4 hr 51 min agoHere’s what the Donbas region means to PutinFrom CNN’s Rob Picheta

Fighting in Ukraine has rounded on Donbas, a sprawling and beleaguered heartland region that has suffered years of conflict and now serves as the bloody stage on which Russia’s war could be decided.

Donbas blankets much of eastern Ukraine, and has been the front line of the country’s conflict with Moscow since 2014.

But now its people, already scarred by eight years of fighting, are enduring an assault even more intense. Russian forces are closing in on the city of Severodonetsk, and are making gradual progress in some parts of the region. Some assaults have been repelled by stubborn Ukrainian counteroffensives.

Failures to take Kyiv and central Ukrainian regions in the invasion’s early months meant Donbas became the centerpiece of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military ambition.

A Russian victory in the region would appall the West but could salvage Putin’s war aims, while a defeat could cement his invasion as a historic failure. Either way, it is almost certain to devastate yet more of the Donbas region, a historically and culturally significant place whose proximity to Russia has dictated much of its turbulent existence.

Those who have lived in and studied the region describe it as an independent and gritty center of industry that has remained suspicious of outside forces for decades.

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5 hr 14 min agoTwo Russian soldiers sentenced to 11.5 years in prison for “violating the laws of war” in UkraineFrom CNN’s Bex Wright

Russian soldiers Alexander Ivanov and Alexander Bobykin, center, in the courtroom after their trial hearing in Kotelva, Ukraine, on May 26. (Bernat Armangue/AP)Two Russian soldiers were sentenced at a Ukrainian court to 11.5 years in jail on Tuesday for “violating the laws of war.”

Oleksandr Bobykin and Oleksandr Ivanov pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing.

“The court found no evidence of coercion. The defendants pleaded guilty. The court ruled that their guilt has been fully proven,” said the court in an online livestream of the hearing at the Kotelevsky district court in the Poltava region Tuesday.

The soldiers were accused of firing Grad rockets from Russia’s Belgorod region towards Ukraine’s Kharkiv region on February 24.

They fired artillery and damaged “objects of civil and critical infrastructure, including private homes” in Kazacha Lopan and Veterynrne in the Kharkiv region, according to case details published on the court website.

The soldiers were captured by Ukrainian forces in the Kharkiv region, according to the court memos.

Last Monday, 21-year-old Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin was sentenced to life in prison for killing an unarmed man in Ukraine’s first war crimes trial since Russia’s invasion.

Shishimarin pleaded guilty to shooting a 62-year-old civilian to death on the fourth day of the conflict in late February.

5 hr 26 min agoIt’s 2:30 p.m. in Kyiv. Here’s what you need to knowPart of Severodonetsk is now “controlled” by Russia, with troops “moving towards downtown,” according to the head of Luhansk regional military administration. But Serhiy Hayday has denied Russian reports that Moscow’s forces have captured the whole city. Meanwhile, European Union leaders have agreed to ban most Russian oil imports as part of a new sanctions package against Moscow.

Here are the latest headlines on Russia’s war in Ukraine:

Battle for Ukraine’s east: Russian forces are “focused on establishing control over the city of Severodonetsk,” the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said in its daily update on Tuesday morning, as fierce fighting continues in the region. The key city in the eastern Luhansk region is being hammered with constant shelling as Russian forces try to encircle Ukrainian defenders and move into the city. Around 60 kilometers (37 miles) west of Severodonetsk, in the Lyman area, Russia is regrouping and “prepares for the offensive.” The General Staff said Russian troops had to withdraw after suffering losses following a reconnaissance operation.Civilians caught in crossfire: The Norwegian Refugee Council said on Tuesday that up to 12,000 civilians remain trapped and in need of aid in Severodonetsk. The refugee agency called on “parties to the conflict to immediately allow all humanitarian organizations to access Severodonetsk with lifesaving assistance and to enable safe evacuations of civilians who wish to leave the city.”EU moves on Russian oil: The European Union agreed to ban 90% of Russian oil imports by the end of the year, the leaders of the European Council announced on Monday. Russian oil delivered by tankers would be banned, while an exemption will be made for the southern segment of the Druzhba pipeline, which accounts for 10% of imports on Russian oil, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen said Monday following a summit in Brussels.EU oil ban will cut Russia’s resources: The EU’s oil ban will cut the financial resources Russia can spend on the war in Ukraine, the bloc’s chief diplomat has said. “Certainly we cannot prevent Russia selling their oil to someone else. We’re not so powerful, but we are the most important client for Russia,” Josep Borrell said on Tuesday. “The purpose is for the Russians to get less resources, less financial resources to feed in the war machine. And this certainly will happen,” he added.Gazprom to cut supply: Russian state energy giant Gazprom confirmed that it will cut off natural gas supply to Dutch gas trading firm GasTerra starting Tuesday, May 31. On Monday, Danish energy company Ørsted and Dutch gas trading firm GasTerra warned Russia could turn off the taps soon because they had refused to make payments in rubles. Weeks earlier, Moscow had done the same to Poland, Bulgaria and Finland.Russian FM to visit Turkey: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will visit Turkey with a military delegation on June 8 to discuss creating a potential sea corridor for Ukrainian agricultural exports, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Tuesday. 5 hr 50 min agoRussia will ensure grain ships passage if Ukraine demines coastal waters, says Russian foreign ministerFrom CNN’s Anna Chernova

Russian naval forces will guarantee the passage of grain ships to the Mediterranean Sea as long as Ukraine removes mines from its coastal waters, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Tuesday.

“It is crucial that the Ukrainian representatives cleared the coastal waters from mines,” Lavrov said at a press conference during a visit to Bahrain.

“If this problem is solved … then on the high seas, the Russian naval

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Ukraine’s beleaguered heartland now serves as the bloody stage on which Russia’s war could be decided

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