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Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

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Russian forces struck targets across Ukraine’s eastern Donetsk region to prepare the path for an expected armored thrust to try to take more territory as the five-month-old war entered a new phase.

FIGHTING

* The cities of Sloviansk and Kramatorsk came under shelling overnight in the eastern Donetsk region, its governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told Ukrainian TV. A woman was killed and at least three people were wounded after a market was struck in Sloviansk, local police said.

* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in his nightly video message on Monday, said there had been no significant changes on the battlefield in the past 24 hours and that Ukrainian forces were repelling and destroying Russia’s offensive capabilities on a daily basis.

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* Russian rocket strikes hit the southern Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv, Nayor Oleksandr Senkevych said.

* Russian-backed separatists have seized two foreign-flagged ships in the eastern Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, saying they are now “state property,” in the first such moves against commercial shipping, letters seen by Reuters showed.

* Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield accounts.

* Russia does not send conscripts to Ukraine to fight in its “special military operation,” Russian state news agency TASS quoted Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu as saying.

* President Vladimir Putin congratulated on Monday Russian forces on their “victories in the Luhansk direction” and “liberating” the region.

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DIPLOMACY AND ECONOMY

* British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told Zelenskiy during a phone call he believed Kyiv’s military could retake territory recently captured by Russian forces, Johnson’s office said.

* Zelenskiy renewed his appeal for security guarantees while addressing a roundtable conference hosted by the Economist. Europe needs to understand, he said, that the war in Ukraine is about Europe’s safety and Ukraine is the “fence” protecting it.

* An international conference in Lugano, Switzerland to support Ukraine has outlined a series of principles to steer Kyiv’s recovery and condemned Moscow’s actions.

* Western partners should do more to help unblock Ukraine’s Black Sea ports to release exports of grain, metals and mining products, a Ukrainian official told Reuters in Lugano, warning the country’s finances are increasingly precarious.

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* No decision has been made yet on expanding Russia’s rouble-for-gas scheme to include liquefied natural gas (LNG), the Kremlin said.

* Britain said it would on Tuesday introduce new sanctions on Belarus over its support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and also sanctioned six Russians it said were spreading disinformation.

* Russian former president Dmitry Medvedev said a reported proposal from Japan to cap the price of Russian oil at around half its current price would lead to a market shortage that could push prices above $300-400 a barrel.

QUOTES

* “The city doesn’t exist anymore,” said Nina, a young mother who fled Lysychansk in now Russian-controlled Luhansk province to take refuge in the central city of Dnipro. “It has practically been wiped off the face of the Earth.” (Compiled by Tomasz Janowski and Mark Heinrich)

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