Ukraine heading for ‘tragedy’, Putin says, as city of Kramatorsk prepares its defences

  • Ukrainian flag raised on recaptured Black Sea island
  • Johnson, the UK Prime Minister and staunch supporter of Ukraine, resigned
  • Residents of Kramatorsk in Donetsk prepare for a Russian attack

KYIV/KRAMATORSK, Ukraine, July 7 (Reuters) – Russian President Vladimir Putin lashed out at Moscow on Thursday, accusing the West of decades of aggression and warning that if it wants to defeat Russia on the battlefield, it is welcome to try, but it will happen. Causing tragedy for Ukraine.

His comments come as Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov prepares for a closed-door meeting of foreign ministers at the G20 summit in Indonesia on Friday — the first time Putin’s top diplomat will come face-to-face with some of the most vocal opponents of the invasion. Ukraine began in February. read more

Russian bombs fell in eastern Ukraine ahead of the expected new offensive, while three people were killed in the northeastern city of Kharkiv, officials said.

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“We have heard many times that the West wants to fight with us to the last Ukrainian. It is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but everything seems to be heading towards this,” Putin told parliament leaders in televised remarks. read more

Putin added that the West had failed in its efforts to contain Russia, and its sanctions on Moscow had caused difficulties, but “not on a targeted scale”. Russia has not ruled out peace talks, but if the conflict goes further, it will be difficult to reach an agreement, he said.

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Mykhailo Podoliak, Ukraine’s chief negotiator, rejected Putin’s comments.

“There is no ‘joint West’ plan,” he said, accusing the Russian army of “entering sovereign Ukraine, shelling cities and killing civilians.”

Earlier, Kiev lost one of its key international backers after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced his resignation. Moscow did not hide its glee at the political demise of a leader it had long criticized for arming Kiev too powerfully. read more

In a phone call, Johnson told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, “You’re a hero and everybody loves you,” Johnson’s spokesman said.

“Britain’s support for Ukraine will not change whatever happens in the corridors of power in London. Boris and all our friends in the UK have assured us of that,” Zelensky said in his nightly video address.

Johnson’s resignation comes amid civil unrest in some other European countries that support Kiev and doubts about their staying power in what has turned into a protracted conflict.

From the United States, support for Ukraine came from two senators — one Republican, one Democrat — who traveled to Kiev on Thursday to pass a bill designating Russia a “state sponsor of terrorism.” read more

The day began with Ukraine’s blue and yellow flag flying over the recaptured Snake Island in the Black Sea, about 140 km (90 miles) south of the Ukrainian port of Odesa.

Moscow responded quickly, and its warplanes soon struck the strategic island, destroying part of the Ukrainian bloc, it said.

Russia gave up the island in late June, saying it was a gesture of goodwill — a victory Kiev hoped could ease Moscow’s blockade of Ukrainian ports.

“Let every Russian captain, on a ship or plane, see the Ukrainian flag on Snake Island and let him know that our country will not be broken,” Zelensky said.

Kharkiv and Kramatorsk

Russian forces shelled the northeastern city of Kharkiv, killing three people and wounding five others, he said late Thursday.

Following this, the bodies lying on the ground near a park bench were covered in sheets by emergency services. Local resident Yuri Chernomorets said two women who went to feed cats in the area were killed.

One fell to his knees and wept as his wife’s bloody corpse was placed in a body bag. He kissed her hand.

“Dad, she’s dead, please wake up,” said a man who identified himself as their son.

In eastern Ukraine, Russian forces continued to pressure Ukrainian troops trying to hold a line along the northern border of the Donetsk region.

After effectively asserting their full control over the neighboring Luhansk region, Moscow has made it clear that it plans to seize the previously unconquered areas of Donetsk. Kiev still controls some major cities.

The mayor of Donetsk city said that Russian forces fired missiles into the city center in an airstrike on Thursday, killing at least one person and wounding six others.

The governor of Donetsk region, Pavlo Kyrilenko, said the missile damaged six buildings, including a hotel and an apartment complex in a large industrial center. read more

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Reuters could not independently verify those claims.

In Kramatorsk, mechanic-turned-soldier Artchk helps improve defenses against an imminent Russian attack, while farmer Vasyl Avramenko laments the loss of crops displaced by mines.

“Of course we are already ready. We are ready,” Artchk, identifying himself by his nom-de-guer, told Reuters.

“It was their (the Russians’) fantasy to occupy these cities, but they didn’t expect the level of resistance. It’s not just the Ukrainian government, it’s the people who refuse to accept them.” read more

Russia denies targeting civilians in a so-called “special military operation” to militarize Ukraine, root out dangerous nationalists and protect Russian-speakers.

Ukraine and its allies launched an imperialist-style land grab with the February invasion, starting the biggest conflict in Europe since World War II that killed thousands, killed millions and flattened cities.

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Report by Reuters Bureau; By Andrew Osborne, Alexandra Hudson and Rosalba O’Brien; Editing by Angus MacSwan, Hugh Lawson and Deepa Babington

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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