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Fierce shelling in eastern Ukraine as NATO heralds its ‘historic’ expansion


Allies committed to supporting Ukraine through what will be a long and costly recovery

Fighting raged on Tuesday in and around Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region as Russian troops tried to maintain a series of battlefield gains, while NATO pressed ahead with Finland and Sweden’s momentous membership bids.

Moscow’s forces — buoyed by seizing several cities in the Donbas in recent weeks — continued to press west, pounding their next key target, the city of Sloviansk, with “massive” shelling, the city’s mayor said. 

AFP journalists on the ground saw rockets hit the marketplace and several adjacent streets, as firefighters scrambled to put out resulting fires in the city, which had a pre-war population of around 100,000.

“This is terrorism pure and simple,” he said on Telegram.

Several other regions were also hit with missiles and artillery, Kyiv reported.

– ‘Timely’ –

“The membership of both Finland and Sweden will not only contribute to our own security but to the collective security of the alliance,” said Finland’s Pekka Haavisto, after protocols were signed launching the required ratification process.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov welcomed Tuesday’s “timely (and) correct” step, adding on Twitter: “Who will be next…?”

With the war well into its fifth month, Kyiv’s allies meeting in the Swiss city of Lugano committed Tuesday to supporting Ukraine through what is likely to be a lengthy and expensive eventual recovery. 

“Our work prepares for the time after the war even as the war is still raging,” said Swiss President and co-host Ignazio Cassis.

After abandoning its initial war aim of capturing Kyiv following tough Ukrainian resistance, Russia has since focused its efforts on securing control of the Donbas.

In a sign Moscow was trying to consolidate supply lines for its ongoing push, Ukraine’s armed forces said Russian troops in Lugansk were “taking measures” to restore transport infrastructure behind the fighting lines.

On Tuesday, they were first closing in on the smaller city of Siversk — which lies between Lysychansk and Sloviansk — after days of shelling there.

To the southwest, in the Moscow-occupied Kherson region, Russia’s troops were deploying helicopters and various artillery to try to stem Ukrainian counter-attacks.

Kherson city, which lies close to Moscow-annexed Crimea, was the first major city to fall to Russian forces in February, and has seen a campaign of so-called Russification since. 

“It keeps us… on full alert all along the front line,” he told the Ukrinform news agency.

But he warned “provocations” by its northern neighbour were likely to continue.

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Originally published as Fierce shelling in eastern Ukraine as NATO heralds its ‘historic’ expansion



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