Russian turns to Donbas; NATO expansion proceeds: Live Ukraine updates – USA TODAY

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Moscow’s focus turns to taking control of eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region, a day after Russian President Vladimir Putin declared victory in Luhansk province

The mayor of Sloviansk, a city in the path of Moscow’s next offensive, warned residents Tuesday to evacuate ahead of an expected assault.

Mayor Vadim Lyakh warned Sloviansk appears to be the Russian army’s next target, reporting in a Facebook post that “massive shelling” had killed at least one person and wounded seven more on Tuesday. Attacks focused on the city’s central market and several other districts, according to the Associated Press.

The city has taken rocket and artillery fire during the war, and the bombardment has picked up since Moscow took the last major city in neighboring Luhansk province, he said.

“It’s important to evacuate as many people as possible,” Lyakh said, adding that shelling damaged 40 houses on Monday.

The British Ministry of Defense said Tuesday on Twitter that Russia can now “claim substantive progress against the policy objective it presented as the immediate purpose of the war, namely ‘liberating’ the Donbas.”

In Brussels, the addition of Finland and Sweden to NATO continued its swift move forward. All 30 NATO allies signed ascension protocols, allowing for the new members. That membership now needs to be ratified by all 30 governments.

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Ukraine Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova told USA TODAY she doesn’t see how ordinary Ukrainians and Russians can achieve reconciliation until Moscow “asks for forgiveness, pays reparations to the state” and ensures “all its war criminals are in prison.” 

“How is this generation (of Russians) ever going to look Ukrainians in the eye after all these actions?” said Venediktova, a former law professor and the country’s top legal official. “They behave like barbarians.”  

Last week, Russia appeared to step up its bombing campaign and there were several assaults on civilian targets. On June 27, at least 20 people died when a Russian missile struck a busy shopping mall in Kremenchuk, in central Ukraine. Two dozen people are still missing. That same day, Russian forces shelled central areas of the eastern city of Kharkiv, killing five and wounding 22. Three days later, at least 21 people were killed when Russian missiles hit a residential apartment building and two resorts near Odesa, Ukraine’s port on the Black Sea.

-Kim Hjelmgaard, Jessica Koscielniak and Ella Lee

BRUSSELS — The 30 NATO allies signed off on the accession protocols for Sweden and Finland on Tuesday, sending the membership bids of the two nations to the alliance capitals for legislative approvals — and possible political trouble in Turkey.

The move further increases Russia’s strategic isolation in the wake of its invasion of neighboring Ukraine in February and military struggles there since.

“This is truly a historic moment for Finland, for Sweden and for NATO,” the head of the alliance, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, said.

The 30 ambassadors and permanent representatives formally approved decisions made at a NATO summit in Madrid last week, when the leaders of member nations invited Russia’s neighbor Finland and Scandinavian partner Sweden to join the military club.

Securing parliamentary approval for the new members in Turkey, however, could still pose a problem even though Sweden, Finland and Turkey reached a memorandum of understanding at the Madrid summit.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned that Ankara could block the process if the two countries failed to grant Turkey’s demands for the extradition of people it views as terror suspects. The people wanted in Turkey have links to outlawed Kurdish groups or the network of an exiled cleric accused of a failed 2016 coup in Turkey.

– Associated Press

Russia continued its march across the Donbas region of Ukraine, capturing the Luhansk Oblast territory that is one of the region’s two major territories.

Ukrainian forces holding the city of Sieverodonetsk-Lyschansk in the territory were being attacked on three sides but now have the “realistic possibility” that they can “fall back to a more readily defendable, straightened front line,” the UK’s Ministry of Defence said in a Twitter thread.

“The battle for the Donbas has been characterized by slow rates of advance and Russia’s massed employment of artillery, leveling towns and cities in the process,” according to the thread. “The fighting in Donetsk Oblast will almost certainly continue in this manner.”

Fighting in Donbas has been ongoing since 2014 after Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

– Rick Rouan

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Russian turns to Donbas; NATO expansion proceeds: Live Ukraine updates – USA TODAY

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