Zelensky: Russian offensive in Severodonetsk pushed back by Ukrainian forces

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May 22 (UPI) — The Russian military continued their attack on the key eastern Ukraine city of Severodonetsk on Sunday, but Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said they were eventually pushed back after fierce fighting.

Moscow’s attack was the latest offensive in its current strategy to control Ukraine’s eastern region where Russian-backed separatists have some control. Ukrainian officials said seven houses in Severodonetsk and at least 27 houses in surrounding towns and villages were damaged.

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“Severodonetsk was assaulted from four sides at once, but the enemy was repelled and retreated to previous positions,” Zelensky said in his daily presidential briefing on Sunday, according to CNN.

Russia needs Severodonetsk and Sloviansk in helping control Ukraine’s Luhansk region, where separatists have gained control of some parts since their insurrection in 2014. A Ukrainian official said at least six civilians were killed there in attacks on the city Saturday.

Russia’s defense ministry said it also used airstrikes and artillery shelling to attack Ukrainian forces, including command centers, in the east and the south.

Odessa regional military administration spokesman Serhiy Bratchuk said a Russian missile struck an infrastructure facility in the region, causing a fire but no one was injured.

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Zelensky accused Russia of accelerating a global food crisisby currently blocking Ukrainian ports.

“Russia has blocked almost all ports and all, so to speak, maritime opportunities to export food — our grain, barley, sunflower and more. A lot of things,” Zelensky said, according to The Guardian. “There will be a crisis in the world. The second crisis after the energy one, which was provoked by Russia. Now it will create a food crisis if we do not unblock the routes for Ukraine, do not help the countries of Africa, Europe, Asia, which need these food products.”

In the Kharkiv region, a Russian missile hit Lozova, injuring at least seven people, including an 11-year-old. An official there said at least 1,000 apartments, 11 educational institutions and a cultural center have been damaged in fighting.

Russian military leaders in Mariupol said that the last Ukrainian fighters have been cleared from the sprawling Azovstal steel plant, ending the military resistance there.