Ukraine says Russia has withdrawn from Kharkiv, but continues its offensive in the east

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    The G7 asks China to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and “not to help Russia in its war of aggression”.

  • Erdogan’s foreign policy aide said a Turkish ship was ready to be used for the rescue of the Mariupol steel plant.

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  • Zelensky says Ukraine is in “complex talks” over the evacuation of wounded fighters from the Mariupol steel plant.​​​

Russian troops are withdrawing from Ukraine’s second-largest city after weeks of heavy shelling, the Ukrainian military announced on Saturday as forces from kyiv and Moscow fought a fierce battle for the east of the country.

Ukraine’s general staff said the Russians were withdrawing from the northeastern city of Kharkiv and focusing on protecting supply routes, while launching mortars, artillery and strikes in the eastern region of Donetsk in order to “exhaust the Ukrainian forces and destroy the fortifications”.

Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said Ukraine was “entering a new long-term phase of the war”.

WATCH | What happened during the war this week:

What happened in week 12 of the Russian attack on Ukraine

Russian and Ukrainian troops are fighting village by village in the Donbass, with little progress for the Kremlin. The war pushes Finland to apply for NATO membership and a Russian soldier is accused of the first war crime since the beginning of the conflict. Here is a recap of the invasion of Ukraine from May 7-13.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Ukrainians were doing their “maximum” to drive out the invaders and that the outcome of the war would depend on support from Europe and other allies.

“No one today can predict how long this war will last,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address Friday night.

The Russian offensive in Donbass, the industrial heartland of eastern Ukraine, appears to be turning into a back-and-forth village-by-village with no major breakthrough on either side. After failing to capture kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, the Russian army has decided to concentrate on the Donbass, but its troops are struggling to gain ground.

WATCH | Russian attacks destroy aid center north of Kharkiv:

Russian attacks destroy aid center north of Kharkiv

Residents of Derhachi, a Ukrainian town north of Kharkiv, are in shock after Russian attacks destroyed a building used to store humanitarian aid.

Zelensky said Ukrainian forces had advanced, retaking six Ukrainian towns or villages over the past day. Western officials said Ukraine pushed back Russian forces around Kharkiv, which was a key target for Moscow’s troops.

“The Russians really haven’t done much in terms of tactical gains recently,” one Western official said, describing the war’s front line as “swinging.”

Expected “Long Battle of Attrition”

“The Ukrainians continue to launch counterattacks, especially around Kherson and Kharkiv. We expect this to turn into a long battle of attrition,” the official said on condition of anonymity to discuss the information.

On Friday morning, a Russian missile hit a cultural center used to distribute humanitarian aid in Dershachi, just northwest of Kharkiv. One person was reportedly injured in the attack.

People gather on Friday after a Russian bombardment hit the House of Culture in Derhachi, which was used to distribute aid, just northwest of Kharkiv, Ukraine. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

The Ukrainian military chief of the Luhansk region in the Donbass said on Friday that the troops had almost complete control of Rubizhne, a city which had a population of about 55,000 before the war.

Fighting was fierce on the Siversky Donets River near the city of Severodonetsk, where Ukraine launched counterattacks but failed to halt Russia’s advance, military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said. independent Ukrainian.

Ukrainian soldiers ride a motorbike on the road that connects Kharkiv to a village recently taken over by the Ukrainian army, near Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Friday. (Ricardo Moraes/Reuters)

“The fate of a large part of the Ukrainian army is being decided – there are around 40,000 Ukrainian soldiers,” he said.

However, Russian forces suffered heavy casualties in a Ukrainian attack that destroyed a pontoon bridge they were using to try to cross the river at Bilohorivka, Ukrainian and British officials said, in another sign of the struggle. of Moscow to save a war gone wrong.

Ukraine’s Airborne Command released photos and video of what it said was a damaged Russian pontoon bridge over the Siversky Donets River and at least 73 destroyed or damaged Russian military vehicles nearby.

The UK Ministry of Defense said Russia lost “significant armored maneuver elements” of at least one battalion tactical group in the attack. A Russian battalion tactical group consists of approximately 1,000 soldiers. He said the risky river crossing was a sign of “pressure on Russian commanders to advance their operations in eastern Ukraine”.

Russia faces continued economic pressure

In other developments, foreign ministers from the G7 group of nations pledged on Saturday to deepen Russia’s economic and political isolation, continue to supply arms and work to ease global food shortages resulting from the war in Ukraine, according to a joint statement.

The foreign ministers of Britain, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Japan, the United States and the European Union pledged to continue their military and defense assistance “as long as necessary”.

In a statement after their meeting in Weissenhaus, Germany, ministers also warned that the war in Ukraine is fueling a global food and energy crisis that threatens poor countries, and that urgent action is needed to release grain stocks that the Russia prevents leaving Ukraine.

The G7 asked China to support Ukraine’s sovereignty and independence, and “not to help Russia in its war of aggression”.

“Complex talks” on the evacuation of wounded fighters

Ukraine’s president said in a late-night speech on Friday that very difficult talks were underway to evacuate “a large number” of injured soldiers from a besieged steelworks in the strategic port of Mariupol, in the southeast, in exchange for the release of Russian prisoners of war.

Mariupol, which has seen the heaviest fighting in nearly three months of war, is now in Russian hands, but hundreds of Ukrainian defenders are still holding out at the Azovstal steelworks despite weeks of heavy Russian bombardment.

WATCH | Finland will submit its application for NATO membership:

Finland to apply to join NATO

Finnish leaders have announced their intention to apply to join NATO following the war in Ukraine. It’s a move that would upend nearly 80 years of non-alignment.

Fierce Ukrainian resistance, which military analysts say President Vladimir Putin and his generals did not anticipate when they launched the invasion on February 24, has also slowed and in some places reversed Russian advances around Ukraine.

“Right now, very complex negotiations are underway on the next phase of the evacuation mission, the evacuation of the seriously injured, the doctors,” President Zelensky said.

He said “influential” international intermediaries were involved in the talks, without giving further details. Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk told local television on Saturday that efforts were now focused on evacuating around 60 people, including the most seriously injured as well as medical personnel.

An adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, Petro Andryushenko, said via Telegram that a convoy of 500 to 1,000 cars carrying civilians from the city had been allowed to enter Ukrainian-controlled territory.

NATO member Turkey has offered to evacuate wounded fighters holed up in the Mariupol steelworks by sea, President Tayyip Erdogan’s spokesman said on Saturday.

Ibrahim Kalin told Reuters in an interview that he personally discussed the proposal with Ukraine’s president in Kyiv two weeks ago and that it remains “on the table”, although Moscow has not accepted it.

According to this plan, wounded soldiers and civilians evacuated from the Azovstal plant would be transported overland to the port of Berdyansk, which, like Mariupol, is on the Sea of ​​Azov, and a Turkish ship would take them to across the Black Sea to Istanbul, Kalin said. , who is Erdogan’s top foreign policy adviser.

Ukraine and Russia did not immediately comment on the possibility of an evacuation by sea.