Ukraine Says It Has Pushed Back Russian Forces In Severodonetsk

Severodonetsk is the largest city still in Ukrainian hands in the Lugansk region.

Ukraine Says It Has Pushed Back Russian Forces In Severodonetsk

Thousands have been killed since Russia's invasion of Ukraine 101 days ago.

Kyiv:

Ukraine said Saturday its forces were managing to push back against Russian troops in fierce fighting in Severodonetsk despite Russia "throwing all its power" into capturing the strategic eastern city.

Lugansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said in an interview posted on his official social media that the invading forces had captured most of the city "but now our military have moved them".

"The Russian army, as we understand, is throwing all its power, all its reserves in this direction," said Gaiday, who on Friday claimed that Ukrainian troops had won back a fifth of the city.

Severodonetsk is the largest city still in Ukrainian hands in the Lugansk region, where Russian forces have been making gradual advances in recent weeks.

Thousands of people have been killed, millions sent fleeing and towns turned into rubble since President Vladimir Putin ordered Russian troops into Ukraine 101 days ago.

The advance of Russian forces has been slowed by stiff Ukrainian resistance, repelling them from around the capital Kyiv and forcing Moscow to focus on capturing the east.

The press service of Ukraine's presidential office on Saturday said Russian attacks killed four civilians in the Lugansk region as a whole.

The situation in Lysychansk -- Severodonetsk's twin city, which sits just across a river -- looked increasingly dire.

About 60 percent of infrastructure and housing had been destroyed, while internet, mobile networks and gas services had been knocked out, said its mayor Oleksandr Zaika.

In the city of Sloviansk, about 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Severodonetsk, the mayor has urged residents to evacuate in the face of intense bombardment, with water and electricity cut off.

Ukraine also reported two victims from a missile strike on the port of Odessa in the southwest, without specifying if they were dead or injured.

Russia's defence ministry said it had struck a "deployment point for foreign mercenaries" in the village of Dachne in the Odessa region.

It also claimed a missile strike in the northeastern Sumy region in a place where it said Ukrainian soldiers were receiving training from foreign instructors on using howitzers.

'Shame and hatred'

Russian troops now occupy a fifth of Ukraine's territory and Moscow has imposed a blockade on its Black Sea ports.

But Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was defiant on Friday.

"Victory will be ours," he said in a video speech marking the 100th day of the war.

Later, in his nightly address, he dismissed the Russian army as being reduced to "war crimes, shame and hatred" after failing military objectives.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said "certain results have been achieved", pointing to the "liberation" of some areas from what he called the "pro-Nazi armed forces of Ukraine".

The West has sent ever-more potent weapons to Ukraine and piled on ever more stringent sanctions against Moscow, with the European Union on Friday formally adopting a ban on most Russian oil imports.

Putin's alleged girlfriend, former gymnast Alina Kabaeva, was also added to an assets freeze and visa-ban blacklist.

Food crisis

The war has sparked fears of a global food crisis -- Ukraine and Russia are among the top wheat exporters in the world.

The United Nations said it was leading intense negotiations with Russia to allow Ukraine's grain harvest to leave the country.

Putin in a televised interview Friday said there was "no problem" to export grain from Ukraine, via Kyiv- or Moscow-controlled ports or even through central Europe.

The UN has warned that African countries, which imported more than half of their wheat consumption from Ukraine and Russia, face an "unprecedented" crisis.

Food prices in Africa have already exceeded those in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings and the 2008 food riots.

On Friday, Putin met the head of the African Union, Senegalese President Macky Sall, at his Black Sea residence in Sochi.

After the meeting, Sall said he was "very reassured", adding that Putin was "committed and aware that the crisis and sanctions create serious problems for weak economies".

French President Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, said Putin had made a "historic" error in starting the war.

But he said the Russian leader should not be "humiliated", and to leave room for diplomacy.

Media driver killed

A driver transporting two Reuters journalists in eastern Ukraine was killed and the two reporters were lightly wounded, a spokesman for the international news agency said.

A French volunteer fighter in Ukraine was also killed in combat, the French foreign ministry said.

In areas around the capital Kyiv, which Russian troops retreated from at the end of March, some residents remain in desperate need of assistance.

At an aid distribution point in Horenka, northwest of Kyiv, on Friday a tearful Hanna Viniychuk, 67, said she had joined the long queue in search of some basic necessities after losing her home to Russian bombardment.

"I'm grateful for this help," she said.

Arkadiy Maznychenko, 75, said: "A lot of houses were burnt, damaged, so people have nothing at all. Everything is shattered, destroyed."

(Except for the headline, this story has not been edited by NDTV staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)

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