Ukraine pushes back in Kherson as Zelenskyy visits east

Hungary has asked for at least four years and €800 million (US$860 million) in EU funds to adapt its refineries and increase pipeline capacity for alternative suppliers, like Croatia.

But under a new proposal put to national negotiators on Sunday, the Druzhba pipeline could be excluded from a sanctions package.

PRESSURE ON THE EAST

Moscow’s forces in the eastern Donbas region are continuing to up the pressure on the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.

A day after Russian forces claimed to have captured the town of Lyman, the situation in Lysychansk had become “significantly worse”, Lugansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said on Telegram.

“A Russian shell fell on a residential building, a girl died and four people were hospitalised,” he said.

On the other bank of the Donets river, Russian forces “carried out assault operations in the area of the city of Severodonetsk,” according to the Ukrainian general staff.

Fighting in the city was advancing street by street, Gaiday said.

Zelenskyy, in his daily address, described a scene of devastation in Severodonetsk, saying, “All critical infrastructure has already been destroyed … More than two-thirds of the city’s housing stock has been completely destroyed.”

In the embattled city, where an estimated 15,000 civilians remain, a local official said “constant shelling” made it increasingly difficult to get in or out while the water supply is increasingly unstable.

‘NEW FACE’

While in Kharkiv, Zelenskyy discussed reconstruction plans with local officials, saying there was a chance for areas devastated by Russian attacks to “have a new face”.

Despite an estimated 2,000 apartment blocks having been wholly or partially destroyed by shelling, the city has returned to a degree of normalcy in recent weeks, with customers returning to the well-known Crystal Cafe in the central public park.

Residents come by for a coffee, a bite to eat or to sample the “Biloshka” ice cream, a Crystal specialty the vendor has been serving since the 1960s.

“We need to keep employment. The city is coming back little by little,” the cafe’s manager, Alyona Kostrova, 36, told AFP.

Far from the city centre in the neighbourhood of Saltivska, however, where Russian shells continue to fall, the atmosphere is different.

“I would not say that people are buying a lot. People have no money,” said Vitaly Kozlov, 41, who peddles eggs, meat and vegetables locally.

Volodymyr Svidlo, 82, told AFP he “has no pension”, and comes “once a week” to the neighbourhood to sell onions, dill and flowers from his garden to make ends meet.

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