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Russian troops move to encircle strategic city in eastern Ukraine

Patrick J. McDonnell and Nabih Bulos, Los Angeles Times on

Published in News & Features

“Russian offensive in the Donbas is a ruthless battle, the largest one on European soil since WWII. I urge partners to speed up deliveries of weapons and ammunition,” Kuleba tweeted Tuesday.

Also Tuesday, Kuleba spoke with his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, about the Russian seaport blockade of Ukrainian food exports, including wheat and other grains, which threatens to starve numerous populations worldwide.

Russia has positioned warships in the Black Sea and Sea of Azov to prevent Ukraine from exporting grains, cooking oil and fertilizers to the world, sending prices soaring and shortages spreading. Russia and Ukraine together account for nearly a third of the global wheat supply.

With at least 25 million tons of wheat trapped in Ukraine, according to the United Nations, Blinken has accused Russia of weaponizing food and holding supplies “hostage” for its military benefit.

While boisterous public demonstrations have largely halted, protests have often moved to less plain and direct forms. One means is placing asterisks on a sheet of paper and holding it up, three asterisks for the Russian word "no," five asterisks for "war," arranged one below the other. No words, no letters, only symbols — however, the meaning is easily decoded by any passer-by.

While on a swing through Asia this week, Biden signed bipartisan legislation granting an additional $40 billion in assistance to Ukraine. At a summit Tuesday in Tokyo with the leaders of Japan, Australia and India, Biden condemned Russia’s “brutal and unprovoked war against Ukraine” for triggering a humanitarian catastrophe.


“We’re navigating a dark hour in our shared history,” Biden said. “The world has to deal with it, and we are.”

Surrounding Severodonetsk would enable Russia to trap Ukrainian troops defending the area and open a path to Kramatorsk, the Ukrainian government’s main administrative and military node in the east.

Despite recent Russian advances, three months of warfare have brought only limited progress for the Kremlin in its plan to take over Ukraine’s east. Russian Defense Secretary Sergei Shoigu chalked up the slow pace to Moscow seeking to limit civilian casualties.

“Cease-fires are being declared and humanitarian corridors are being created in order to get people out of the surrounded settlements,” Shoigu said at a meeting of defense ministers from some former Soviet bloc nations, according to a report from Russia’s state-owned RIA news agency.


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