– Street fighting in Severodonetsk –
Ukrainian forces pledge to fight “until the end” in Severodonetsk but with Russian forces in control of most of the key eastern city, their prospects of success appear slim.
“Street fighting continues,” Lugansk regional governor Serhii Haidai says on Telegram, estimating that 80 percent of the city is in Russian hands.
Luhansk is one of two regions, along with Donetsk, that make up Ukraine’s industrial heartland Donbas which Russia has vowed to “liberate”.
Once in control of Severodonetsk, Russian forces will likely try cross the Donets river, which flows through the city, to try take nearby Donetsk, Britain’s defence ministry wrote in an intelligence note Thursday.
Ukrainian forces have destroyed bridges across the river.
“It is likely Russia will need at least a short tactical pause to re-set for opposed river crossings and subsequent attacks further into Donetsk Oblast,” the British intelligence memo said.
– AU chief to meet with Putin on food –
The head of the African Union, Senegalese President Macky Sall, will meet President Vladimir Putin in the southwestern Russian city of Sochi on Friday to discuss food shortages caused by the conflict, which are exacerbating hunger in parts of Africa.
Both Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of wheat and other cereals to Africa, while Russia, which is under export-limiting Western sanctions, is a key producer of fertiliser.
Sall’s office says the visit, which was proposed by Putin, is aimed at “freeing up stocks of cereals and fertilisers” and easing the Ukraine conflict.
During the week, Sall criticises the decision by EU members to expel Russian banks from the SWIFT financial messaging system, which has made it harder for them to process international payments for Russian goods.
– Danes vote to join EU defence policy –
Danes vote overwhelmingly in a referendum to join the EU’s common defence policy 30 years after the NATO member opted out.
Almost 67 percent of people in the traditionally eurosceptic country back the move, which comes hot on the heels of neighbouring Finland’s and Sweden’s historic applications for NATO membership.
Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen says Denmark is “showing that when Putin invades a free country and threatens the stability in Europe, we others pull together.”
– War-weary Ukrainians get football boost –
Ukraine’s football team beat Scotland in their first competitive match since the Russian invasion to set up a World Cup play-off final against Wales on Sunday.
Ukraine manager Oleksandr Petrakov dedicates his side’s 3-1 win to those fighting in the trenches of his war-torn homeland.
“This victory was not for me or for the team members, it was for our country. This was a huge victory for Ukraine.
“They did everything for the people they play for, the Ukrainians.
“For the people watching them back home: the armed forces in the trenches, the people working in the hospitals. They say thank you to us, and we say thank you to them.”
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