Russian forces ‘advancing in all directions’ in Luhansk region, governor says

Updates from Day 90 of the invasion

  • Russia has brought ‘insane number’ of fighters and equipment to Luhansk region, governor says

  • Bodies found in Mariupol building, not clear when they died.

  • Ukraine says at least 14 civilians were killed Tuesday in Russian attacks in the east.

  • Military spokesperson says Eastern Ukraine facing ‘full-scale aggression’ from Russia.

  • Latest Canadian contribution to Ukraine fighting is 20,000 artillery rounds, usable in howitzers.

  • European Commission president believes Russia is targeting grain warehouses.

WARNING: This story contains graphic details of death

The Ukrainian governor of the eastern Luhansk region said Tuesday that the area was facing “the most difficult time” since conflict with Russia-backed separatists began in 2014.

“Now, for the Luhansk region, is the most difficult time in the eight years of the war,” Serhii Haidai wrote on the Telegram messaging app. “The Russians are advancing in all directions at the same time; they brought over an insane number of fighters and equipment.”

He also accused Moscow’s troops of deploying scorched-earth tactics across the region, one of two which make up Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland.

Two men carry a wooden panel next to heavily damaged buildings and destroyed cars in Bakhmut, Eastern Ukraine, on Tuesday. (Francisco Seco/The Associated Press)

“It’s only getting worse. What the Russians are doing is hard to describe in words. The invaders are killing our cities, destroying everything around.

“The situation is on the verge of being critical. The free Luhansk region is now like Mariupol,” Haidai said, in a reference to the ruined port city captured by Moscow last week.

Finding bodies in Mariupol

Workers digging through rubble found 200 bodies in Mariupol, Ukrainian authorities said Tuesday, another grim discovery in the city that has seen some of the worst suffering of the three-month-old war.

The bodies found in the basement of a collapsed apartment building were in a state of decomposition and a stench permeated the neighbourhood, said Petro Andryushchenko, an advisor to the city’s mayor.

Perched on the Sea of Azov, Mariupol was relentlessly pounded during a months-long siege that finally ended last week after some 2,500 Ukrainian fighters abandoned a steel plant where they had made their last stand.

Russian forces already held the rest of the city, where an estimated 100,000 people remain out of a pre-war population of 450,000, many trapped without food, water, heat or electricity.

An aerial view from a drone shows heavily damaged residential buildings located near Azovstal Iron and Steel Works in the southern port city of Mariupol on Sunday. (Pavel Klimov/Reuters)

The announcement of the discovery of the bodies came shortly after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Russia of waging “total war,” seeking to inflict as much death and destruction as possible on his country.

He pointed to a missile attack that killed 87 people last week in the town of Desna, 55 kilometres north of Kyiv, one of the deadliest single strikes in the war.

“And it was only four missiles,” he said, noting the many hundreds of such strikes since the beginning of the war on Feb. 24.

Reports of surrender leaflets

The Kremlin is now mostly focused on the eastern industrial heartland of the Donbas, where Russian forces have intensified efforts to encircle and capture Severodonetsk and the neighbouring cities of Lysychansk and Rubizhne in Luhansk region, British military authorities said Tuesday.

Pro-Russian soldiers reportedly used a howitzer to fire leaflet shells toward Severodonetsk on Tuesday. The leaflets contained instructions for the surrender process.

Service members of pro-Russian troops carry leaflet shells at their combat positions in the Luhansk region of Ukraine on Tuesday. (Alexander Ermochenko/Reuters)

Russian forces have achieved “some localized successes” despite strong Ukrainian resistance along dug-in positions, the U.K. Defence Ministry said, but the fall of Severodonetsk and the area around it may cause logistical problems for the Russians.

“If the Donbas front line moves further west, this will extend Russian lines of communication and likely see its forces face further logistic resupply difficulties,” the ministry said.

Ukrainian Defence Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk painted the battle there in more stark terms Tuesday during a televised briefing.

“Now we are observing the most active phase of the full-scale aggression which Russia unfolded against our country,” he said.

WATCH | Heavy shelling in Severodonetsk:

U.K. says Russia intensifying attacks in East Ukraine, gaining little ground

The U.K. defence ministry says Russian forces are attempting to capture all of the Luhansk region in the east of Ukraine with renewed attacks.

Ukraine’s military said Tuesday Russian troops had killed at least 14 civilians and injured 15 more in mass attacks in the eastern Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

In a Facebook post it said Russian troops had used aircraft, multiple rocket launchers, artillery, tanks, mortars and missiles in their assault on the two regions, large parts of which are controlled by Russian-speaking separatists.

In its effort to secure a victory in the Donbas, Moscow has withdrawn some forces from around Ukraine’s second-largest city of Kharkiv.

WATCH | West must keep up pressure on Russia, Zelensky says:

Zelensky calls for maximum Russian sanctions, UN diplomat resigns

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for maximum sanctions against Russia as it faces resistance in the Donbas region, and a key Russian diplomat at the United Nations says he is ashamed of his country.

There, residents lined up for rations of tea, sugar, pasta and cereal, holding out plastic bags to receive cups of flour and other supplies.

Kharkiv restarted its metro service on Tuesday and asked the hundreds of people who had used the underground as a bomb shelter for the last three months to free up the train carriages, but many said they were still too scared to return home.

“Everyone is crazily scared, because there is still shelling, the rocket attacks haven’t been stopped,” said Nataliia Lopanska, who has lived in a train wagon for almost three months.

Meanwhile, a Russian-installed official in Ukraine’s Kherson region said the pro-Kremlin administration will ask Moscow to set up a military base there.

“It is vitally important and will become a security guarantee for the region and its residents,” said Kirill Stremousov, deputy head of the administration.

Commuters take the subway in Kharkiv, eastern Ukraine, on Tuesday. Kharkiv’s subway resumed service on Tuesday morning after it was closed for more than two months during Russian attempts to capture the city. (Bernat Armangue/The Associated Press)

Meanwhile, two top Russian security officials vowed on Tuesday that Moscow will achieve all the goals set for the “military operation” in Ukraine, appearing to address the fact that the invasion, expected by many to be a blitzkrieg, has entered its fourth month.

The secretary of Russia’s Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, said in an interview published Tuesday that the Russian government “is not chasing deadlines.”

WATCH | Expect dozens more war crimes trials to come due to Russia-Ukraine war, expert says:

Expect dozens more war crimes trials to come due to Russia-Ukraine war, expert says

Targeting unarmed civilians during war is ‘always criminal’ said Michael Newton, a law professor and former U.S. State Department official. There are dozens more war crimes trials to come out of the war between Ukraine and Russia, he said.

On the third day of the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, Ukraine was top of mind.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, while speaking at WEF, accused Russia of deliberately bombarding grain warehouses across Ukraine and weaponizing food supplies.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has provoked disruptions of global food supplies, and the blockade of Ukrainian ports has been particularly harmful. Ukraine accounted for 90 per cent of grain and oilseed exports before the war, according to the European Union.

Von der Leyen said about 20 million tonnes of wheat are currently stuck in Ukraine.

WATCH | Former U.S. ambassador to NATO talks to CBC News about alliance expansion:

“And on top of this, Russia is now hoarding its own food exports as a form of blackmail — holding back supplies to increase global prices, or trading wheat in exchange for political support,” she said. “This is using hunger and grain to wield power.”

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen called for U.S. allies to step up financial support for Ukraine on Tuesday, saying that funds announced so far would not be sufficient for the country’s short-term needs.

“Ukraine’s financing needs are significant,” Yellen said in remarks prepared for delivery to the Brussels Economic Forum.

The European Union on Wednesday is set to propose a new package of loans to Ukraine to provide immediate liquidity, along with commitments for longer-term reconstruction. While the short-term package is still being defined, two officials familiar with the discussions told Reuters they expected it to roughly cover Ukraine’s financial needs for two months.

The Canadian government announced on Tuesday that it has assembled almost $100 million in military aid for Ukraine — Canada’s biggest single donation of military equipment to the country since the start of Russia’s invasion.

The $98-million donation will include 20,000 155mm artillery shells — NATO’s standard artillery shell — fuses and charge bags, Defence Minister Anita Anand said.

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