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Ukrainians left with one way out of Sievierodonetsk, as fierce fighting rages

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© Reuters. A local resident looks at grass that is on fire after a shelling, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, near the town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region Ukraine June 12, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

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By Natalia Zinets and Maria Starkova

KYIV (Reuters) – Ukrainian defenders were fighting fiercely for “every metre” of Sievierodonetsk, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, as Russian forces destroyed a bridge to another city across the river, leaving stranded civilians with just one way out.

Sievierodonetsk has become the epicentre of the wider battle for control over Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. Russian forces have taken most of Sievierodonetsk, having pulverized parts of the city in one of the bloodiest assaults since the Kremlin unleashed its invasion on Feb. 24.

“The key tactical goal of the occupiers has not changed: they are pressing in Sievierodonetsk, severe fighting is ongoing there – literally for every metre,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address on Sunday, adding that Russia’s military was trying to deploy reserves in the Donbas.

Zelenskiy said the image of a 12-year-old wounded in a Russian strike was now the enduring worldwide face of Russia.

“These very facts will underscore the way in which Russia is seen by the world,” he said.

“Not Peter the Great, not Lev Tolstoy, but children injured and killed in Russian attacks,” he said, in an apparent reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s remarks last week comparing Moscow’s military campaign to Russian emperor Peter the Great’s 18th century conquest of lands held by Sweden.

Ukrainian and Russian forces were still fighting street-by-street in Sievierodonetsk on Sunday, the governor of Luhansk province, Serhiy Gaidai, said.

Russian forces have taken most of the city but Ukrainian troops remain in control of an industrial area and the Azot chemical plant where hundreds of civilians are sheltering.

“About 500 civilians remain on the territory of the Azot plant in Sievierodonetsk, 40 of them are children. Sometimes the military manages to evacuate someone,” Gaidai said.

But the Russians had destroyed a bridge over the Siverskyi Donets River linking Sievierodonetsk with its twin city of Lysychansk, Gaidai said.

That left just one of three bridges still standing.

“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,” Gaidai said, noting the lack of a cease-fire agreement and no agreed evacuation corridors.

In Lysychansk, Russian shelling killed a six-year-old child, Gaidai said.

The fall of Sievierodonetsk, in the last pocket of Ukrainian land held in the strategic Luhansk region, would move Russia a big step closer to one of the stated goals of what Putin calls a “special military operation.”

Reuters could not independently confirm that account.

STRATEGIC IMPLICATIONS

After being forced to scale back its initial goals following its Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, Moscow has turned its attention to expanding control in the Donbas, where pro-Russian separatists have held territory since 2014.

Russian forces have engaged in the constant bombardment of cities in the south and east, leaving many in ruins and thousands of civilians dead, according to the United Nations.

Elsewhere, Russian cruise missiles destroyed a large depot containing U.S. and European weapons in western Ukraine’s Ternopil region, Russia’s Interfax agency reported.

Ternopil’s governor said rockets fired from the Black Sea at the city of Chortkiv had partly destroyed a military facility and injured 22 people. A local official said there were no weapons stored there.

Reuters could not independently confirm the differing accounts.

Moscow has criticised the United States and other nations for sending Ukraine weapons, threatening to strike new targets if the West supplied long-range missiles.

Ukrainian leaders recently have renewed pleas for more heavy weapons. On Sunday, the Ukrainian general staff said on Facebook (NASDAQ:META) that General Valeriy Zaluzhny, the head of Ukraine’s armed forces, had spoken to General Mark Milley, the top U.S. military officer, and reiterated his request for more heavy artillery systems.

Russian forces were firing mortars and artillery south and southwest of Sievierodonetsk, according to Ukraine’s general staff. But it said Ukrainian forces had repulsed Russian attempts to advance towards some communities.

Reuters could not independently verify the battlefield reports.

Putin says Russia’s actions aim to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine. Kyiv and its allies call it an unprovoked war of aggression to capture territory.

Also on Sunday, the leader of the Russian-backed separatist Donetsk region in the Donbas said there was no reason to pardon two British nationals sentenced to death last week after being captured while fighting for Ukraine.

A court in Donetsk on Thursday found Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner – and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun – guilty of “mercenary activities” seeking to overthrow the republic.

Britain says Aslin and Pinner were regular soldiers exempt under the Geneva Conventions from prosecution for participation in hostilities. Aslin’s family said he and Pinner “are not, and never were, mercenaries.”

Separately, the family of a former British soldier, Jordan Gatley, said on social media he was killed fighting for Ukraine in Sievierodonetsk.

(This story refiles to correct byline)

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Bypassing sanctions by the EU is included in the list of criminal offenses in the EU

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Bypassing European sanctions is included in the list of criminal offenses in the EUThe EU Council decided on Monday to include violations of EU sanctions in the list of criminal “offenses in the EU”.

“The EU has adopted an unprecedented European sanctions list targeting Russia’s economy (…). Their implementation requires joint efforts to achieve results, and today’s decision is an important tool to ensure that any attempts to circumvent these measures will be stopped,” said Czech Justice Minister Pavel Blazek, who holds the EU Council Presidency, as quoted in a communiqué published in Brussels.

Member states currently have different definitions of what is a violation of restrictive measures and what penalties should be imposed in the event of a violation, the document noted. “This could lead to varying degrees of sanctions and the risk of circumvention of these measures, potentially allowing sanctioned individuals to continue accessing their assets and supporting regimes against which EU measures are in effect,” the EU Council communiqué said.

It explains that listing violations of restrictive measures as “crimes in the EU” is the first of two steps aimed at making sure that sanctions are applied equally across the EU and deterring attempts to circumvent or violate EU measures.

This draft directive, Brussels reminds us, must then be discussed and adopted by the European Parliament and the EU Council.

Earlier we reported that the U.S. had decided to extract crude oil in Venezuela.

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The U.S. has decided to produce crude oil in Venezuela

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The U.S. wants to give the U.S. Chevron Corp., one of the largest oil companies in the country, a license to produce crude oil in Venezuela, according to The Wall Street Journal.

There will be new American oil executives in Venezuela. This is a signal of easing sanctions against the country, the newspaper said. Chevron has decided to regain partial control over oil production in Venezuela’s fields, in which the company paid a share due to joint ventures with Petroleos de Venezuela SA.

Talk of new investment is not yetunderway, because the debts to Chevron are not repaid. This may take several years, the sources say.

In July, Diosdado Cabello, leader of the parliamentary faction and vice president of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), accused the U.S. of attacks on the country’s oil facilities. Venezuela has been under U.S. oil sanctions since 2019. In June of this year, the State Department allowed Italian Eni and Spanish Repsol to supply oil from Venezuela to Europe.

Earlier we reported that more than 50% of Germans said they refused to buy new clothes and electronics.

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Bloomberg: UAE to boost oil production beyond plan by 2025

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UAE to boost oil production

UAE to boost oil production. One of Russia’s main competitors for oil exports plans to reach five million barrels per day by 2025. The Middle Eastern country was initially expected to reach this level only by 2030, Bloomberg reported, citing sources.

“Energy concern Abu Dhabi National Oil Co. (Adnoc), which produces almost all of the UAE’s oil, wants to be able to produce 5 million barrels a day by 2025. The company planned to reach such a level only by 2030,” – says the material.

But a crude oil production boost will be difficult without additional financing for expenses for the project. Adnoc explained the acceleration of production increase by the policy of the leading countries of the world on accelerated energy transition to renewable energy sources (RES).

“As we embrace the energy transition and focus our business on the future, we will continue to explore potential opportunities that can further add value, free up capital and improve profitability,” the Arab oil company said.

To realize the goal, Adnoc has asked international companies that are partners in its oil fields to increase long-term crude production by 10% or more, sources said. In the case of positive results of the negotiations, the UAE will be able to significantly increase the volume of oil production by 2025, concludes Bloomberg.

On September 19, the Times of India, citing sources in the Indian Ministry of Commerce, reported that the Asian country has saved since February 2022, $439.7 million on imports from Russia of oil at a discount. A total of about 62.5 million barrels of Russian crude were purchased by Indian state and private companies over the last six months. Moreover, volumes of imports have increased many times over as compared to 2021.

Earlier, we reported that Nigeria stopped benefiting from the sale of Nigerian oil due to the lack of dollars.

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