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Russia gains ground as Ukrainians acknowledge ‘extremely difficult’ fighting

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Ukraine acknowledged difficulties in the fighting in the east as Russian forces captured territory and increased pressure on two cities ahead of an EU summit this week expected to welcome Kiev’s bid to join the bloc. Follow FRANCE 24’s live blog for the latest developments. All times Paris time (GMT+2).

6:49 am: Kremlin spokesman says Americans imprisoned in Ukraine committed ‘crimes’

Two Americans captured in Ukraine while fighting with the Kiev military “endangered” Russian soldiers and must be “held responsible for those crimes,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview released Monday by NBC News. .

The interview marks the first time the Kremlin has commented on the affairs of Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh, both US military veterans, according to NBC.

“They are lucky soldiers and they were involved in illegal activities on the territory of Ukraine. They were involved in the firing and shelling of our military personnel. They put their lives in danger,” Peskov told the network in English.

“They should be held accountable for the crimes they committed,” he added in the early parts of the interview that was made public.

“Those crimes need to be investigated.”

6:24 am: Russia gains ground as Ukrainians admit ‘extremely difficult’ battles

Ukraine acknowledged difficulties in the fighting in the east as Russian forces captured territory and increased pressure on two cities ahead of an EU summit this week expected to welcome Kiev’s bid to join the bloc.

The governor of the Luhansk region, the scene of the heaviest Russian attacks in recent weeks, said the situation had been “extremely difficult” from Monday evening along the front lines and that the Russian army had amassed enough reserves to launch a large-scale offensive. .

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had predicted that Russia would step up its attacks ahead of the EU summit on Thursday and Friday. In a speech to the nation on Monday night, he was defiant, while also referring to “difficult” fighting in Luhansk for Severodonetsk and its sister city Lysychansk.

“We defend Lysychansk, Severodonetsk, this whole area, the most difficult. We have the hardest fights there,” he said. “But we have our strong guys and girls there.”

Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russian forces had controlled most of Severodonetsk except the chemical plant in Azot, which has sheltered hundreds of civilians for weeks. The road connecting Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk to the city of Bakhmut was under constant shellfire, he said.

“Lysychansk suffers massive Russian shelling all day long. It is impossible to determine the number of victims,” ​​Gaidai said.

Rodion Miroshnik, ambassador to Russia of the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, said his troops were “moving from the south to Lysychansk” as gunfights broke out in several cities.

“The next few hours should bring significant changes to the balance of power in the area,” he told Telegram.

6:12 a.m.: US citizen killed in battle in Ukraine, State Department confirms

According to an obituary and the State Department, a US citizen was killed in fighting in Ukraine last month after joining thousands of foreign fighters who volunteered to help Ukraine fend off invading Russian forces.

Stephen Zabielski, 52, was killed in fighting on May 15, according to a obituary published in The Recorder, a New York State newspaper, earlier this month. On Monday, media reports of his death circulated.

Zabielski, who was from New York and had moved to Florida in recent years, leaves behind his wife, five stepchildren and a grandchild.

In a statement, a foreign ministry spokesman confirmed Zabielski’s death in Ukraine and said the agency has been in contact with his family and has provided “all possible consular assistance”.

The spokesman’s statement reiterated previous warnings that US citizens should not travel to Ukraine because of the conflict and the potential for the Russian government to single them out. It added that all citizens in Ukraine must leave immediately.

2:14 a.m.: Nobel Prize for Russian journalist is sold for $103.5 million, earmarked for aid to Ukraine

Dmitry Muratov, the Russian editor-in-chief of the independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, on Monday auctioned his gold medal for the Nobel Peace Prize for a staggering $103.5 million to benefit children displaced by the war in Ukraine.

According to Heritage Auctions, which handled the sale, all of the proceeds from the sale of the medal — which was won by an unidentified telephone bidder — will go to UNICEF’s Humanitarian Aid for Ukrainian Children Displaced by War.

Muratov won the award in 2021 along with journalist Maria Ressa of the Philippines, with the committee honoring them “for their efforts to ensure freedom of expression”.

2:10 am: Kremlin spokesman says Americans imprisoned in Ukraine committed ‘crimes’

Two Americans captured in Ukraine while fighting with the Kiev military “threatened” Russian soldiers and should be “held responsible for those crimes,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in an interview with NBC News on Monday.

The interview marks the first time the Kremlin has commented on the affairs of Alexander Drueke and Andy Huynh, both US military veterans, according to NBC.

“They are fortune soldiers and they were involved in illegal activities on the territory of Ukraine. They were involved in the firing and shelling of our military. They put their lives in danger,” Peskov told the network in English.

“They should be held accountable for the crimes they committed,” he added in the early parts of the interview that was made public.

When pressed for the crimes committed by the Americans, Peskov admitted that their specific crimes were not yet known, but claimed they would not be covered by the Geneva conventions on prisoners of war.

“They are not (in the) Ukrainian military, so they are not subject to the Geneva Conventions,” the Kremlin spokesman said.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)

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