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strikes on kyiv, street fighting in Severodonetsk, NATO maneuvers

► Strikes on kyiv

Explosions shook kyiv early Sunday, June 5, and air raid warnings sounded in several other localities in Ukraine. The mayor of the capital Vitali Klitschko reported in the morning of several explosions, in the districts of Darnytsky and Dnipropetrovsky, injuring one.

“The aggressor continues to launch missiles and conduct airstrikes on the military and civilian infrastructure of our country, especially in Kyiv”wrote the General Staff of the Ukrainian army on its Facebook page.

Russia, for its part, claims to have targeted and destroyed during these strikes armored vehicles supplied to Ukraine by Eastern European countries.

Vladimir Putin warned on Sunday that Moscow would hit new targets if the West supplied long-range missiles to Ukraine, saying current arms shipments were aimed at “prolong the conflict”.

► The battle continues in Severodonetsk

In eastern Ukraine, the battle continues for control of the city of Severodonetsk, at the heart of the Russian offensive in the Donbass mining basin. “The situation in Severodonetsk, where street fighting continues, remains extremely difficult”, said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in a video broadcast on the night of Saturday June 4 to Sunday June 5. He mentioned some “constant air raids, artillery and missile fire”.

Russia said on Saturday that Ukrainian soldiers were withdrawing from the city. “Units of the Ukrainian army, having suffered critical losses during the fighting for Severodonetsk (up to 90% in several units), fall back to Lysychansk”a nearby town, assured the Russian Ministry of Defense.

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But kyiv says it is fighting to regain lost ground. Russian troops “succeeded in entering the city and seizing a good part of it, dividing it in two. But our soldiers managed to redeploy, to build a line of defence. Currently, we are doing what is necessary to restore full control” of Severodonetsk, said Olexandre Striouk, mayor of the city.

For the American Institute for the Study of War (ISW), the dynamic has changed and now the Ukrainian forces “successfully slow down (…) the Russian assaults on Severodonetsk through careful and effective local counter-attacks”.

► NATO maneuvers in the Baltic Sea

Maneuvers involving fourteen NATO countries as well as Sweden and Finland are due to begin this Sunday, June 5 and will continue until June 17. The USS Kearsarge, the largest US warship to ever dock in Stockholm harbour, dropped anchor with US Chief of Staff General Mark Milley on board.

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These maneuvers, called Baltops 22, take on particular significance with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, which prompted Sweden and Finland to reverse decades of non-alignment and seek NATO membership. The exercise includes, in particular, “to train in the practice of amphibious attacks and scenarios which would include attacking territory invaded by an adversary or enemy country”a thinly veiled warning to Russia.

The Kearsage is an aircraft carrier 250 meters long, which carries 1,200 Marines. Her presence “is a concrete expression of the support of the United States and also a strong political sign at a crucial time in history”commented Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson. “It shows that the security guarantees that President Biden has mentioned (…) are indeed followed by concrete actions. We are very, very grateful for that.”.

► A high-stakes football match

Sunday evening, on the lawn of Cardiff, the Ukrainians must win against Wales to qualify for the World Cup which would take place in the fall in Qatar. “We all understood that the game against Wales will not be about fitness or tactics, but about survival. Everyone is going to fight for it and give it their all”explained defender Oleksandre Zinchenko, as if to better unite with the Ukrainian soldiers, failing to be able to fight alongside them.

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