Russia is gaining ground; 2 soldiers convicted of war crimes

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A court in the city of Poltava in central Ukraine on Tuesday sentenced two captured Russian soldiers to 11 years and six months in prison for their role in bombing civilian areas near Kharkiv.

This was the second war crimes trial since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

Alexander Bobykin and Alexander Ivanov served in Russian artillery units that destroyed a school in Dergachi, a village about 20 km northwest of Kharkiv, prosecutors said. An electrical substation, overhead power lines, residential buildings and a high school were also damaged in two villages in the Kharkiv region.

The men, who watched the proceedings from a reinforced glass box, had pleaded guilty to charges of “violation of the laws and customs of war“.

In the first war crimes trial, Russian soldier Vadim Shishimarin was sentenced last week to life in prison for fatally shooting a Ukrainian civilian.

Other developments:

►Estonia, Latvia and Slovakia have signed an agreement to join Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine in the joint investigation team that will coordinate the investigation of Russian atrocities through the agency of the European Union Eurojust.

►Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports sets the stage for a “catastrophic scenario” of widespread shortages and price hikes across Africa, Senegalese President Macky Sall, chair of the African Union, has said.

►The Russians on Monday deported around 320 Ukrainian citizens, including 32 children, from Mariupol to a camp in the village of Bezimenne in the Donetsk region, Mariupol Mayor Petro Andriushchenko said.

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‘We have a lot to do to win’: Ukrainian leader warns war is far from over

More than three months after the Russian invasion, a senior Ukrainian military official warned on Tuesday that an end to the brutal conflict that has left much of his country in ruins is not near. Oleksiy Danilov, secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, cited bitter battles for control of the breakaway eastern regions of Lugansk and Donetsk – and other regions as well.

“I think those people who said the war will end very soon, that we have already won, that we will celebrate in April, said a dangerous thing,” he said. “Unfortunately, the war will continue, and we have a lot to do to win. It’s very difficult for us at the front.”

Russia seizes crucial eastern city

Russian forces seized half of the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, one of the last major cities under Ukrainian control in the Luhansk region, as Moscow continued to make progress in its drive to control the Industrial Donbass. Mayor Oleksandr Striuk said Tuesday. He said street fighting and artillery shelling were threatening the lives of some 13,000 civilians remaining in the battered Lugansk oblast town that was once home to more than 100,000 people. More than 1,500 people in the city have died since the war began in February, he said.

“The city is basically being ruthlessly destroyed, block by block,” Striuk said.

Serbia could adopt European sanctions against Russia

Serbia, a staunch ally of Russia, could join the rest of Europe in adopting sanctions against Russia. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, sworn in for his second five-year term on Tuesday, pledged to keep the Balkan country on the path to joining the European Union. Serbia is the only European country-nation that did not join Russia’s sanction for its invasion of Ukraine.

Vucic announced on Sunday that he had secured an “extremely favorable” three-year natural gas contract with Moscow. European energy sanctions have focused on oil.

“We will have to face new sanctions (…) which could harm us, so we will ask our European partners to help us,” Vucic said. He said that Serbia would not apply for NATO membership and would maintain its military neutrality. But he added that Serbia is “not politically neutral” because of its aspirations to the European Union.

New EU sanction could cut Russian oil imports by 90%

European Union leaders reached an agreement on Monday evening on a sixth set of sanctions that would include a partial oil embargo against Russia after resolving an objection from Hungary.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the deal, which bans the delivery of oil on barges but temporarily exempts deliveries by pipeline, “will effectively reduce around 90% of oil imports from Russia to the EU by the end of the year”.

The compromise was reached after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged European leaders to put an end to “internal arguments which only incite Russia to exert more and more pressure on the whole of Europe”.

Contribute: The Associated Press

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