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Russia takes control of half of key city in east Ukraine

Smoke rises in the city of Severodonetsk during heavy fighting between Ukrainian and Russian troops, in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbass, on May 30, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Russian forces have taken partial control over a key industrial city in eastern Ukraine, as they continue an unrelenting push deeper into the Donbass region.

A Ukrainian military official said on Tuesday that Russian forces now controlled half of the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk.

"Unfortunately, the front line divides the city in half," Oleksandr Stryuk, head of the city's military and civil administration, said in a live broadcast.

"But the city is still defending itself, the city is still Ukrainian, our soldiers are defending it," he added.

Separately, Luhansk regional governor, Sergiy Gaiday, said in an online statement that the situation in Severodonetsk was "extremely complicated." He said that Ukrainian troops still retained control of some areas.

Severodonetsk is one of the several urban hubs that lie on Russia's path to capturing Luhansk in the Donbass.

Russian President Vladimir Putin declared a military campaign against Ukraine in late February, accusing Kiev of failing to implement the terms of a peace agreement for the breakaway regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. At the time, Putin said one of the goals of what he called the "special military operation" was to "de-Nazify" Ukraine.

Ever since, the US and its Western allies have been sending heavy weaponry to Ukraine and shared intelligence with the government in Kiev, while imposing unprecedented sanctions on Russian officials and entities.

Earlier on Tuesday, European Union (EU) leaders agreed to effectively cut around 90% of oil imports from Russia to the continent by the end of the year.

Gazprom halts gas shipments to Netherlands

Russia's Gazprom, meanwhile, has halted gas shipments to the Netherlands. The energy corporation revealed the shut-off after Dutch energy firm GasTerra ignored a demand that gas supplied from April 1 be paid for in rubles.

The cutoff means that two billion cubic meters of gas will not be supplied to the Netherlands between now and October, GasTerra said. The partly state-owned firm buys and trades gas on behalf of the Dutch government.

European companies have been scrambling to work out how they can keep buying Russian gas after Moscow demanded payments be made in rubles and the European Commission said such a move would breach sanctions.

Russia has already halted deliveries to Finland, Poland, and Bulgaria.

Danish energy company Orsted has also warned its gas shipments could be cut off when a Tuesday payment deadline passes.

Energy dependence varies widely across the bloc, with countries such as Bulgaria almost totally dependent on Russian oil.

Putin says EU nations have "scored an own goal" by imposing the oil embargo on Moscow.

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