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Russia Squeezes Ukraine Strongholds    05/27 06:01

   Russian forces on Friday pounded the last Ukrainian strongholds in a 
separatist-controlled eastern province of Ukraine, including a city where 
authorities said 1,500 people have been killed and 60% of residential buildings 
destroyed since the start of the war.

   KYIV, Ukraine (AP) -- Russian forces on Friday pounded the last Ukrainian 
strongholds in a separatist-controlled eastern province of Ukraine, including a 
city where authorities said 1,500 people have been killed and 60% of 
residential buildings destroyed since the start of the war.

   Ukraine's foreign minister warned that without a new injection of foreign 
weapons, Ukrainian forces would not be able to stop Russia from seizing 
Sievierodonetsk and nearby Lysychansk, locations that are crucial to Russia's 
goal of capturing all of Ukraine's industrial Donbas region.

   The cities are the last areas under Ukrainian control in Luhansk, one of two 
provinces that make up the region. Russian forces have made slow but persistent 
advances as they bombarded and sought to encircle both Lysychansk and 
Sievierodonetsk.

   "The Russians are pounding residential neighborhoods relentlessly," regional 
governor Serhiy Haidai wrote in a Telegram post Friday. "The residents of 
Sievierodonetsk have forgotten when was the last time there was silence in the 
city for at least half an hour."

   Russian shelling killed four people in the city over the past 24 hours, he 
said.

   Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said late Thursday that at least 1,500 people have 
been killed in Sievierodonetsk since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24. About 
12,000 to 13,000 remain in the city -- down from a pre-war population of about 
100,000 - and 60% of residential buildings have been destroyed, he said.

   Stryuk said a Russian reconnaissance and sabotage group entered a city 
hotel, and that the main road between neighboring Lysychansk and the city of 
Bakhmut to the southwest remains open, but travel is dangerous. He said only 12 
people were able to be evacuated Thursday.

   In Donetsk, the Donbas region's other province, Russia-backed rebels claimed 
Friday to have taken control of Lyman, a large railway hub north of two more 
key cities that remained under Ukrainian control. There was no immediate 
confirmation from Ukrainian officials.

   With Ukraine's hopes of stopping the Russian advance fading, Ukrainian 
Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba pleaded with Western nations to provide his 
country with more weapons so its defenders were equipped to "push (the Russian 
forces) back."

   "We need heavy weapons. The only position where Russia is better than us, 
it's the amount of heavy weapons they have. Without artillery, without multiple 
launch rocket systems we won't be able to push them back," Kuleba said in a 
video posted on Twitter Thursday night.

   He said the situation in the east was "even worse than people say. ... If 
you really care for Ukraine, weapons, weapons and weapons again."

   In his nightly address to the nation, Ukrainian President Volodymyr 
Zelenskyy had some harsh words for the European Union, which has not agreed on 
a sixth round of sanctions that includes an embargo on Russian oil.

   "Of course, I am grateful to our friends who are promoting new sanctions," 
the Ukrainian leader said. "But where did those who block the sixth package get 
so much power? Why are they still allowed to have so much power, including in 
intra-European procedures?

   Zelenskyy also spoke bluntly about what's at stake in the battle for eastern 
Ukraine.

   "Pressure on Russia is literally a matter of saving lives," he said. "And 
every day of delay, weakness, various disputes or proposals to 'appease' the 
aggressor at the expense of the victim is new killed Ukrainians. And new 
threats to everyone on our continent."

   Moscow pressed the West on Thursday to lift sanctions already imposed over 
the war, seeking to shift the blame for a growing global food crisis that has 
been worsened by Kyiv's inability to ship millions of tons of grain and other 
agricultural products while under attack.

   Britain immediately accused Russia of "trying to hold the world to ransom," 
insisting there would be no sanctions relief, and a top U.S. diplomat blasted 
the "sheer barbarity, sadistic cruelty and lawlessness" of the invasion.

 
 
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