SLOVIANSK (Reuters) – Russian forces continued to advance on Tuesday in Donbass, a basin in eastern Ukraine that they want to finish conquering on the orders of Vladimir Putin, as NATO launched ratification of the accessions of Sweden and Finland.
In Lugano (Switzerland), Ukraine and its allies agreed on the principles that should guide the country’s reconstruction, namely the fight against corruption and the pursuit of reforms.
After the fall of Lysychansk, the centerpiece of the plan to conquer Donbass, on Sunday, Russian forces are now trying to advance west and take the rest of this industrial basin that has been partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops to “carry out their mission” in the east of the country in accordance with “already approved plans”.
Lyssyshansk was the last major bastion held by Kiev in Lugansk province, one of two that form the Donbass with Donetsk. While Moscow says it completely controls the province, the Ukrainian presidency says it still holds “a small part” and guarantees that “fighting continues on (its) administrative borders”.
On Tuesday morning, Russian troops were advancing west towards Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, the two largest cities in Donetsk province, still under Ukrainian control. They were about ten kilometers from the city of Siversk, which they had been bombing for several days.
About forty kilometers away, in Sloviansk, where the Ukrainian authorities asked the population to withdraw, the situation was calm by mid-morning, the journalists noted. Artillery exchanges were heard nearby, and Ukrainian Red Cross minibuses were heading east and Siversk to evacuate civilians.
The Russian army said in the morning that it had bombed two Ukrainian command posts in Donetsk. According to the Ukrainian presidency on Tuesday, “at least two civilians were killed and six wounded” by Russian bombings in the province.
Russian forces also said on Tuesday morning that they had bombed four ammunition and artillery depots in the northeastern region of Kharkiv in the past 24 hours, where Ukrainians said late on Monday they had repelled Russian attack attempts.
In the south, Moscow also claimed to have shot down “a Su-25 plane and three drones of Ukrainian forces in the Kherson region”, claims impossible to verify from an independent source. A Russian official of the powerful security services (FSB) on Tuesday took over the government of the area occupied in this region by Russian forces, announced the local administration.
Russia also said on Tuesday that it was investigating torture allegedly suffered by Russian soldiers captured by Ukrainian forces and released during a prisoner exchange with Ukraine.
Some of the released Russians recounted “various facts of the abuse they suffered” while in detention, according to a statement from the Investigative Committee for Criminal Investigations in Russia, which reports beatings, torture, electricity or deprivation of water or food.
Ukraine and Russia, which have carried out several prisoner exchanges, accuse each other of mistreatment or torture of prisoners.
It is in this context that the international conference organized on Monday and Tuesday in Lugano continued to try to outline the contours of the future reconstruction of Ukraine, whose cost Kyiv estimates at 750 billion dollars.
Ukraine needs these “colossal funds” to help the population, rebuild war-torn cities and infrastructure, but also “prepare schools and universities for a new academic year” and “prepare for winter,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said. on Monday night.
The statement adopted Tuesday in Lugano indicates that the signatories are “fully committed to supporting Ukraine throughout its journey”.
The document emphasizes that “the recovery process should contribute to accelerating, deepening, expanding and carrying out Ukraine’s reform and resilience efforts in line with Ukraine’s European path”.
“Ready to go fast”
“The recovery process must be transparent and accountable to the Ukrainian people,” he said, as the prospect of billions of dollars in aid has revived concerns about corruption, which is endemic in the country.
In its 2021 report on corruption, the NGO Transparency International ranks Ukraine 122nd out of 180, and Russia 136th.
The text insists that the recovery process be “inclusive and guarantee gender equality, and called for the reconstruction of Ukraine in a” sustainable way.
“When we say we are ready to go fast, we really mean fast,” said Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Chmygal.
The conference, which brings together officials from Ukraine’s allies, international institutions but also the private sector, was planned long before the war unleashed on February 24 by the Russian invasion, and would initially focus on reforms in Ukraine. corruption.
The European Investment Bank (EIB) will propose the creation of a new fund for Ukraine, which could reach 100 billion euros, according to informed sources. And for Chmygal, Russian assets frozen in western countries alone are valued at 300 to 500 billion dollars.
In Brussels, the thirty member countries of NATO launched this Tuesday the process of ratification of the accessions of Sweden and Finland, a historic decision for the two Nordic countries dictated by the war in Ukraine.
“At the age of 32 we will be even stronger (…) at a time when we face the most serious security crisis in recent decades”, underlined NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, before the ambassadors of the countries of the initial Alliance, these protocols during a ceremony at NATO Headquarters.