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Ukraine: Russian offensive in east picking up momentum with intensive fighting around Donetsk, Kharkiv

Gravedigger Alexander, digs a grave at the cemetery of Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on April 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)
Gravedigger Alexander, digs a grave at the cemetery of Irpin, on the outskirts of Kyiv, on April 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti)

POKROVSK, Ukraine — Ukraine says that Russia’s offensive in the east has picked up momentum, with several towns coming under intense attack as Moscow’s forces attempt to surround Ukrainian troops.

In a reminder of the horrific toll the war has taken since it began Feb. 24, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres visits towns outside the capital of Kyiv where evidence of mass killings of civilians was found after Russia’s retreat from the area.

The fighting gathers pace after Russia suddenly cut off natural gas to two NATO nations on Wednesday, in what was seen as a bid to punish and divide the West over its support for Ukraine ahead of the potentially pivotal battle in the eastern industrial region of the Donbas.

The General Staff of Ukraine’s military says Russian forces were “exerting intense fire” in several places as they pushed on with the second phase of their invasion.

The most intensive action is around Donetsk and close to Kharkiv, which lies outside the Donbas but is seen as key to Russia’s apparent bid to encircle Ukrainian troops there.

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