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Ukraine: Zelenskyy orders Donetsk evacuations

July 30, 2022

The Ukrainian president has ordered residents to immediately leave the eastern Donetsk region. Meanwhile, Kyiv said the Ukrainian military killed scores of Russian soldiers in Kherson. DW rounds up the latest.

A man stands in the middle of the rubble of a school outside of Kramatorsk in Donetsk region on July 25, 2022
Zelenskyy warned that thousands of people were still in the battleground areas of the Donetsk regionImage: Bulent Kilic/AFP/Getty Images

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday ordered the evacuation of the eastern Donetsk region which has seen fierce clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces.

"There's already a governmental decision about obligatory evacuation from Donetsk region," Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address. "Please, follow evacuation. At this phase of the war, terror is a main weapon of Russia."

He said hundreds of thousands of people were still living in areas of Donbas where fighting was fierce.

"If you have the opportunity, please talk to those who still remain in the combat zones in Donbas. Please convince them that it is necessary to leave, especially if they are families with children. If you have the opportunity to help displaced people, do it," he said.

Zelenskyy promised both logistical support and cash to help tide residents over.

Separately, domestic Ukrainian media outlets quoted Deputy Prime Minister Iryna Vereshchuk as saying the evacuation needed to take place before winter begins since the region's natural gas supplies had been destroyed.

Here are the other main headlines from the war in Ukraine on July 30.

Kyiv: Scores of Russian soldiers killed in Kherson region

Ukraine says it has made advances in the Russian-held Kherson region, claiming it had killed scores of Russian soldiers.

The Ukrainian military's southern command said they were able to cut rail traffic to Kherson over the Dnieper River. If confirmed, the move would separate Russian forces stationed west of the river from eastern supplies.

Ukrainian counteroffensive also destroyed two ammunition dumps, Reuters cited the military as saying. Over 100 Russian soldiers were killed in the fighting in the region on Friday, and seven tanks were destroyed, Ukraine said. 

The reports have not been independently verified.

In recent weeks, Ukraine has been making use of much-needed long-range missile systems supplied from the West to make advances in the Kherson region, the first to be captured by Russian forces after they launched the invasion at the end of February.

British defense officials believe that the destruction of three bridges crossing over the Dnieper has exposed Russian forces on the west bank of the river.

Lebanon orders seizure of Syrian-flagged ship on Ukraine grain theft report

A prosecutor in Lebanon, Ghassan Oueidat, instructed police to investigate the Laodicea ship, currently docked in the northern port of Tripoli.

The Ukrainian embassy in Kyiv had complained that the ship's cargo contained stolen Ukrainian grain.

Oueidat "ordered the seizure of the ship until the investigation is completed," an official told the AFP news agency.

Lebanese police had been requested to consult with the Ukrainian embassy in Beirut following Ambassador Ihor Ostash's claim that the grain on the ship was loaded in a Ukrainian region occupied by Russia. Lebanon's foreign ministry said the ship was carrying barley and flour.

The owner of the shipping company is a Turkish national and the grain was purchased by a Syrian merchant, according to a member of Lebanon's judiciary.  Part of the cargo had been scheduled to be offloaded in Lebanon before the rest was shipped on to Syria.

Some media reports suggested the ship had been sanctioned by the US to hit Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad over events during the civil war in his country. 

Ukraine denounces Russian embassy's call for mass executions

Ukrainian officials have denounced a call from the Russian embassy in the UK on Twitter to deliver "a humiliating death" to prisoners of war from the Azov regiment who were captured during a fierce battle for the Azovstal plant in Mariupol.

Twitter said the post violated the rules against "hateful conduct" on the platform.  The tweet was paired with a video purporting to show a couple in Mariupol claiming Ukrainian forces had shelled them.

On Telegram, the head of the office of the Ukrainian presidency Andriy Yermak wrote, "In the 21st century, only savages and terrorists can talk at the diplomatic level about the fact that people deserve to be executed by hanging."

In Russia-controlled Olenivka, a jail was hit killing scores of Ukrainian prisoners-of-war. Russia has blamed Ukraine which in turn has pointed to tweets like the one put out by the Russian embassy in the UK and questioned who has the motive and desire to carry out such a strike.

Russia adds 32 New Zealand personalities to its entry ban list

Russia has indefinitely banned 32 officials and journalists from New Zealand from entry, adding their names to what it describes as its "blacklist."

A Foreign Ministry statement said the ban came in response to New Zealand's sanctions against a growing numbers of Russian citizens

The ministry added that the sanctioned Russian individuals include both officials and members of their families. They also include businessmen and media practitioners.

Those added to Russia's entry ban also included Kiwi municipality heads and law enforcement agents, as per the Russian Foreign Ministry.

It warned that it would continue to expand its entry ban list if "Wellington does not intend to abandon the anti-Russian course and continues to produce new restrictions."

Russia had banned in April a number of New Zealand's politicians from entering the country, including Prime Miister Jacinda Ardern.

British MI6 chief says Russia 'running out of steam' in Ukraine

Britain’s foreign intelligence agency (MI6) chief Richard Moore said on Saturday that Russia was "running out of steam" in its war on Ukraine.

His comment came in reply to a Twitter statement by the British military, which reiterated support for Ukraine.

The UK Ministry of Defense, meanwhile, said the Kremlin was "growing desperate."

"Russia has lost tens of thousands of soldiers and is using Soviet-era weapons," the ministry said. "Their outdated missiles are killing and injuring innocent Ukrainians. Russia won't win this unjust war."

The British statements come as Ukraine claims its troops have killed scores of Russian soldiers while attempting to retake occupied territory in the Kherson region.

The statements also echo comments by US former CIA chief David Petraeus, who believes Ukraine — armed with consistently supplied Western resources — has a high chance of winning its war against Russia.

Russia strikes Ukraine's south amid frontline counteroffensives

Russian forces have struck towns and cities across Ukraine’s southern frontlines, as Ukrainian troops push to reclaim Russian-held territories, Ukrainian officials said on Saturday.

Rockets hit two residential districts in the southern city of Mykolaiv overnight, killing one person and injuring six others, the city’s mayor said.

The strike left "windows and doors broken, and balconies destroyed," AFP quoted the mayor as saying.

Mykolaiv lies some 100 kilometers (62 miles) northwest of Kherson, where Ukrainian forces are pushing the Russians to retake the region which fell into Russian control shortly after the launch of the invasion at the end of February. 

The port city of Mykolaiv has been a daily Russian target. On Friday, an attack near a bus stop killed seven.

Elsewhere in the east, Russian rockets struck a Kharkiv school building overnight, in addition to an attack on a bus station in the city of Sloviansk, the AP news agency reported.

Russia could be preparing to hold referendum in occupied territories

Moscow is pressuring authorities in recently occupied territories in southern Ukraine to hold referendums on joining the Russian Federation later this year, the British military said on Saturday.

"Local authorities are likely coercing the population into disclosing personal details in order to compose voting registers," the British Defense Ministry said on Twitter. It added that Russia categorizes the areas it occupies in Ukraine as under interim "civil-military administration."

The British military update also said that Ukraine was repelling small-scale Russian attacks in eastern Donbas, as well as pushing back Russian forces in Kherson. 

It reported that Russia potentially established two pontoon bridges and a ferry system in Kherson to regain contact with its supply lines east of the Dnieper River, after Ukraine damaged bridges crossing the river in recent strikes.

What is life like in Ukraine under Russian occupation?

Former CIA head Petraeus calls Ukraine's chances of victory 'high'

The former head of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), David Petraeus, believes Ukraine has a high chance of victory in its war against Russia.

It seems "increasingly likely that Ukrainian forces will be able to recapture much, if not all, of the areas that have been occupied by Russian forces in recent months," he told Germany’s Bild newspaper.

Petraeus, however, stressed the importance of NATO and other Western states' continued supply of resources to Ukraine "at the current pace." He described this as the prerequisite to Ukraine's success.

Petraeus believes that leaders of Western nations now realize how Russia’s victory in the war would be "catastrophic for European security."

Among the US' most prominent military representatives, Petraeus served as supreme commander of US troops in Iraq and NATO forces in Afghanistan. He was also head of the US Central Command, before serving as head of the CIA.

US ambassador to UN says Russia seeks to 'dissolve' Ukraine off world map

The US ambassador to the UN accused Russia of seeking to dismantle Ukraine and "dissolve it from the world map entirely."

In an address to the UN Security Council, Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the US was witnessing signs of Russian steps to annex all of the eastern Ukrainian regions, listing Donetsk, Luhansk, southern Kherson and Zaporizhzhia.

Greenfield cited the installation of "illegitimate proxy officials in Russian-held areas, with the goal of holding referenda or decree to join Russia" as evidence supporting its accusation.

She also referred to recent statements by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in which he said that his country's goal in Ukraine was to free its people from its "unacceptable regime."

Russia's deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky, meanwhile, told the council that "the de-Nazification and demilitarization of Ukraine will be carried out in full," the AP news agency reported.

He stressed that any threats to Russia or to the Donbas region or Russian-held Ukrainian territories must be obliterated.

More on the war in Ukraine

Russia and Ukraine have exchanged blame for the shelling of a Ukrainian prisoner of war (POW) jail. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy described the attack as a Russian "war crime," while Russia's Defense Ministry said Kyiv was behind it. Read the story here.

In the five months since Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine, statements by Russian representatives have repeatedly shifted the goalposts with regard to Moscow's war aims. DW has this summary of the main changes.

Conservative politicians and pundits in the US have criticized the wife of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, Olena Zelenska, for featuring in a cover story of the magazine Vogue. But Ukrainians have welcomed the publicity it has given to their fight against invading Russian forces. DW looks at both sides of the argument.

mm, ar, rmt/sri (AFP, AP, Reuters, dpa)