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Ukraine launches counter-offensive against Russian pressure to take Donbas region as NATO talks Finland and Sweden accession

Ukrainian forces have launched a counter-offensive near the Russian-occupied city of Izium in eastern Ukraine, a regional governor said, in what could be a serious setback to Moscow’s plans to take the entire Donbas region.

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A convoy of 500-1,000 cars has emerged from Mariupol in what, according to an aide to the city’s mayor, is the largest group evacuating from some fronts of the Ukrainian counter-offensive around Izium

Russian forces have focused much of their firepower on the Donbas region in a “second phase” of their invasion announced on April 19, after failing to reach the capital Kyiv from the north in the early weeks of the war.

But Ukraine has recaptured territory in the northeast and expelled the Russians from Ukraine’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

Continued pressure on Izium and Russia’s supply lines will make it more difficult for Moscow to encircle battle-hardened Ukrainian forces on the eastern front in the Donbas region.

The Russian Defense Ministry said its forces hit a series of military sites, including in the Donbas region, killing at least 100 Ukrainian “nationalists”.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, and up and down hands for volume. Viewing Duration: 1 minute 22 seconds 1m 22s Why is Ukraine’s Donbas region a focal point for Russia?

Reuters was unable to verify the report independently.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the situation in the Donbas region remains very difficult, adding that Russian troops there are still trying to achieve victory.

“They don’t stop their efforts,” he said.

Regarding the latest developments in eastern Ukraine, regional governor Oleh Sinegubov said in comments on social media: “The hottest place remains the Izium direction.”

“Our forces have started a counter-offensive there. The enemy is retreating on some fronts due to the nature of our forces,” he said.

Public support behind Ukraine’s Eurovision victory

Ukraine beat the UK to take first place. (AP: Luca Bruno)

On Saturday, Ukraine’s Kalush Orchestra won the popular Eurovision Song Contest in Italy, a sign of how European public sentiment has favored Kyiv since Russian forces launched an all-out attack on the country in February.

Ukraine was in fourth place based on jury votes, but viewer support catapulted the country first to place.

“Our courage impresses the world; our music is conquering Europe! Next year Ukraine will host the Eurovision Song Contest,” Zelenskyy said in an online message.

The winners of the Eurovision Song Contest are traditionally allowed to organize the event the following year.

In another show of international solidarity, US Republican senators paid an unannounced visit to Kyiv.

The Republican delegation discussed further tightening sanctions against Russia, said Mr. Zelenskyy

Western analysts say Russian President Vladimir Putin failed to anticipate fierce Ukrainian resistance — and strong global response — when he ordered the February 24 invasion.

In addition to losing large numbers of men and much military equipment, Russia has been hit by economic sanctions.

On Saturday, the Group of Seven Leading Western Economies pledged to “further increase economic and political pressure on Russia” and supply more weapons to Ukraine.

Read more about the Russian invasion of Ukraine:

G7 countries pledge to reduce dependence on Russian energy

One of the objectives of Russia’s action in Ukraine was to prevent the former Soviet Republic from ever joining NATO.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, speaking by phone with Putin on Friday, said he saw no change in the Russian leader’s thinking about the conflict.

Mr. Scholz said Western sanctions against Russia will remain in place until it reaches an agreement with Ukraine, adding: “Our goal is for this invasion to fail.”

At a meeting in Germany, foreign ministers from the G7 group of rich countries supported giving Ukraine more aid and weapons.

In their statement, G7 ministers — from the United States, Japan, Germany, Britain, France, Italy, and Canada — pledged to “accelerate our efforts to reduce and end dependence on Russian energy supplies.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the West’s sanctions amount to a “total hybrid war” against Moscow but that Russia could resist sanctions by building deeper partnerships with China, India, and others.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, and up and down hands for volume. Watch Duration: 2 minutes 1 second 2m 1s Russia threatens retaliation after Finland announces its intention to join NATO.

The war prompted Finland to renounce its military neutrality and join NATO.

Sweden is widely expected to follow suit.

Finnish President Sauli Niinisto told Putin that his country, which shares a 1,300-kilometer border with Russia, wants to join NATO to bolster its security.

Mr. Putin told Mr. Niinisto it would be a mistake for Helsinki to give up its neutrality, the Kremlin said, adding that the move could harm bilateral relations.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that it was impossible for his country, a NATO member, to support the expansion of the alliance because Finland and Sweden were “home to many terrorist organizations”.

Finland’s and Turkey’s foreign ministers were set to meet in Berlin later this weekend to try to resolve their differences over NATO accession.

NATO’s deputy secretary general said on Sunday he is confident Turkey’s concerns over Finland and Sweden’s accession to NATO can be alleviated.

“Turkey is an important ally and has raised concerns being discussed between friends and allies,” Mircea Geoană said in Berlin.

“I am confident that if these countries decide to join NATO, we will welcome them to find all the conditions to meet consensus.”

The largest group of evacuees escapes from crushed Mariupol

Meanwhile, complex talks are underway to find a way to evacuate many wounded soldiers from a besieged steel factory in Mariupol port in exchange for releasing Russian prisoners of war.

Mariupol, now largely controlled by Russia, has endured the heaviest fighting in nearly three months of war and has been flattened.

Citizens have been trying to leave Mariupol for more than two months. (AP)

Despite weeks of heavy Russian bombing, hundreds of Ukrainian fighters hold out at the Azovstal steel plant.

Ukraine has evacuated civilians from the destroyed city for over two months.

Refugees first had to leave Mariupol and somehow make their way to Berdyansk – some 80 km further west along the coast – and other settlements before driving 200 km northwest to Zaporizhzhya.

A large convoy of cars and vans carrying refugees from the ruins of Mariupol arrived in the Ukrainian-controlled city of Zaporizhzhya on Saturday after waiting days for Russian troops to let them go.

Nikolai Pavlov, a 74-year-old retiree, said he lived in a basement for a month after his apartment was destroyed.

A relative managed to get him from Mariupol to Berdyansk through “secret detours”.

“We barely made it; there were many elderly among us. The journey was devastating. But it was worth it,” he said after the convoy arrived in the dark.

An aide to the mayor of Mariupol had previously said the convoy numbered between 500 and 1,000 cars, representing the largest evacuation from the city.

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to seek, and up and down hands for volume. Viewing Duration: 2 minutes 9 seconds 2m 9s Military analysts say Ukraine appears to have won the Battle of Kharkiv.


Dorothy R. Barrett

I’m a full-time blogger by passion. This is my first blog, and I'm excited to share everything that I love about technology, business, and lifestyle with you. I’m a writer by trade, and I can be found writing about tech, business, and lifestyle on my personal blog.

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