Desperate Vladimir Putin deploying poorly trained conscripts as Moscow losses ramp up

Russia deploying ‘‘poorly trained conscripts’ says Zelensky

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Vladimir Putin has been forced to send “poorly trained conscripts” in the battle for Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region according to Ukrainian President Zelensky. Mr Zelensky noted that Russia is looking to move reserves into the Donbas amid heaving fighting.

President Zelensky said: “The Russian army is trying to deploy reserve forces in the Donbas.

“But what reserves can they have now? 

“It seems that they will try to throw into battle poorly trained conscripts and those who are gathered by covert mobilisation.”

It came as Russian forces swarmed into the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk and pounded a zone where hundreds of civilians were sheltering, a Ukrainian official said on Monday – a scene that mirrored Moscow’s brutal assault on Mariupol last month.

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Pro-Moscow separatists claimed the last bridge out of Sievierodonetsk had been destroyed and Ukrainian defenders there must now surrender or die. Ukraine said there was still another way out although it was severely damaged.

Ukraine has issued increasingly urgent calls for more Western weapons to help defend Sievierodonetsk, which Kyiv says could hold the key to the outcome of the battle for control of the eastern Donbas region and the future course of the war.

Regional governor Sergei Gadai said fighting was raging and Ukrainian forces were defending building by building.

“The battles are so fierce that fighting for not just a street but for a single high-rise building can last for days,” he said on social media.

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Russian forces now controlled about 70 percent of Sievierodonetsk, he said and were destroying it “quarter by quarter” in one of the bloodiest assaults since they launched their invasion on February 24.

“Russians continue to storm the city, having a significant advantage in artillery they have somewhat pushed back the Ukrainian soldiers,” Gaidai, who is governor of the Luhansk region that includes Sievierodonetsk, said on Monday.

Russian artillery fire pummelled the Azot chemical plant, where hundred of civilians were sheltering, he said.

“About 500 civilians remain on the grounds of the Azot plant in Sievierodonetsk, 40 of them are children. Sometimes the military manages to evacuate someone,” he said, noting the lack of a cease-fire agreement or agreement on evacuation corridors.

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Russia’s RIA news agency quoted a pro-Moscow separatist spokesperson, Eduard Basurin, as saying the last bridge over the river linking the two cities had been destroyed on Sunday.

Ukrainian troops were effectively blockaded in Sievierodonetsk and should surrender or die, Basurin said.

Gaidai also said one crossing was destroyed on Sunday, but there was still another “half-destroyed” bridge remaining, though it could not be used for heavy vehicles.

“If after new shelling the bridge collapses, the city will truly be cut off. There will be no way of leaving Sievierodonetsk in a vehicle.”

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