Ukraine forces ‘holding positions’ in Sievierodonetsk

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has recorded 9,394 civilian casualties since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.  Of that number, the UN said 4,253 had been killed while 5,141 had been injured.  According to the UN statement, 272 children were among those killed.  The OHCHR said the number of dead civilians is likely to be far higher than the number provided.  Most of the deaths were caused by heavy weapons like artillery and rocket launchers with the ability to destroy in a wide radius.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has arrived in Turkey for talks over unblocking grain exports from Ukraine, stalled due to Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor.  This is Lavrov’s second trip to Turkey after meeting his Ankara and Kyiv counterparts Mevlut Cavusoglu and Dmytro Kuleba in Antalya on March 10.  At the request of the United Nations, Turkey has offered to escort maritime convoys from Ukrainian ports.  At the center of the talks is the opening of a security corridor to ship Ukrainian grain.  In a phone call last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Moscow was ready to work with Ankara to release maritime shipping blocked during the conflict.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has held talks in Lithuania with the heads of three Baltic countries about the state of security on NATO’s eastern flank.  At a joint press conference in Vilnius, the leaders highlighted Russia’s threat to regional security following its invasion of Ukraine.  Scholz said the leaders had continued intensive talks and said that “we are demonstrating in the face of Russia’s aggression, unity.” Furthermore, the German chancellor spoke about NATO’s enhanced forward presence in Lithuania and said, “we are going to increase our contribution by strengthening the eastern flank of NATO, and we are ready to strengthen our engagement and to develop it towards a robust combat brigade.” This is the first time Scholz has visited a NATO country that borders Russia since Moscow launched its invasion of Ukraine in February.  The three Baltic countries all border Russia, and Latvia and Lithuania border Russian ally Belarus.  Thousands of NATO soldiers, including German soldiers, are stationed in this region.

Russia’s wider plan likely continues to sever the Sievierodonetsk area from both the north and the south, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement on Tuesday.  While Ukrainian forces have recaptured parts over the weekend, Russian soldiers continue to occupy eastern districts, the statement said.  The ministry added that Russia made gains on the southern Popasna axis in May; however, its progress in the area has impeded over the last week.  “Reports of heavy shelling near Izium suggest Russia is preparing to make a renewed effort on the northern axis,” the ministry said.  “Russia will almost certainly need to achieve a breakthrough on at least one of these axes to translate tactical gains to operational level success and progress towards its political objective of controlling all of Donetsk Oblast.”

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