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Street fighting rages as Russia pushes to capture Severodonetsk in Donbas

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Smoke rises in the city of Severodonetsk in the Donbas, eastern Ukraine, during heavy battles between Ukrainian and Russian forces. (Photo by AFP)

Fierce street fighting rages in Ukraine’s strategic city of Severodonetsk, as Russia is pushing to completely bring the eastern Donbas region under its control.

“The situation is changing every hour, but at the same time there's enough forces and resources to repel attacks,” Severodonetsk mayor Oleksandr Striuk said, pledging that no one was going to abandon the city.

The Ukrainian forces are still holding out in the strategic industrial hub in the east and have not completely surrendered.

Speaking to journalists after visiting frontline positions in Lysychansk, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned that Ukrainian military forces in the key city were outnumbered by Russian forces, who “are stronger”.

According to Ukraine's defense ministry, the Russian military is reinforcing its troops and equipment in the city.

On Monday, Luhansk governor said the situation had worsened and Ukrainian forces lost ground in the city.

Odessa blockade 

Ukrainian officials also said Moscow had blockaded the key Black Sea port of Odessa, preventing their exports of grain.

Zelensky said the Russian military has blocked 25 million tonnes of grain from being exported.

“In the autumn that could be 70 to 75 million tonnes,” said Zelensky, whose country was the world's fourth biggest grain exporter before the war.

The Russian military offensive, combined with supply chain snarls and climate change, has triggered stark warnings of food shortages in Ukraine and around the globe.

'Another Russian general killed'

Pro-Kremlin forces confirmed that the Ukrainian forces had killed another Russian general during the armed conflict in the country.

The death of Major General Roman Kutuzov was reported earlier by a war correspondent for Russian state TV but has not been confirmed by officials in Moscow.

The leader of Ukraine's pro-Russian forces, Denis Pushilin, expressed his “sincere condolences to the family and friends” of General Kutuzov.

“As long as our generals fight shoulder to shoulder with soldiers, our country and our nation will be invincible,” he said.

Russia has focused its military operation on the eastern Donbas region to liberate the area from what it calls pro-Nazi forces.

Growing divide in Europe

On Monday, Estonia’s Prime Minister Kaja Kallas said European unity is set to break apart over the response to the military conflict in Ukraine and its impact on inflation and living standards across the continent.

“We are at a point when sanctions start to hurt our side,” she said, referring to a raft of European sanctions against Russia over its offensive in Ukraine.

“At first the sanctions were only difficult for Russia but now we are coming to a point when the sanctions are painful for our own countries, and now the question is how much pain are we willing to endure. It is different for different countries. The unity is very hard to keep. It is getting more and more difficult because of high inflation, and energy prices,” Kallas explained.

Kallas also criticized the French president, Emmanuel Macron, for what she characterized as trying to provide Russian President Vladimir Putin with a diplomatic way out of the conflict.

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