Support our mission

After sweeping through Luhansk, Russian forces are now gaining ground in the neighboring Donetsk region. Both are part of the prized industrial Donbas heartland of eastern Ukraine that Moscow is seeking to control.

On Wednesday Donetsk’s regional governor urged the area’s 350,000 residents to evacuate as Russia intensifies its bombardment campaign. “The destiny of the whole country will be decided by the Donetsk region,” Pavlo Kyrylenko told the Associated Press.

Fighting has also intensified in the strategic city of Slovyansk in Donetsk, where at least two people were killed at a market and residential area, according to local authorities Tuesday. Britain’s defense ministry said Wednesday that Russian forces are now about 10 miles north of Slovyansk, making it likely the next key battleground in the war.

Elsewhere, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said the recently captured cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk are still reeling, with thousands of civilians now living under Russia occupation. “Overall, over 300,000 people have left the Luhansk region” since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion, he said Wednesday. He vowed: “We will return. We will rebuild everything.”

On the international stage, Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to Indonesia for a gathering of Group of 20 foreign ministers this week that will focus on food and energy security. A traditional one-on-one meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is not on the agenda, the State Department has said.

Kyrylenko said a central market in Slovyansk, as well as an area in Bakhmut including a school and other buildings, recently came under Russian shelling.

“I call on everyone: evacuate!” he tweeted Tuesday, showing photos of the Slovyansk market in flames.

To the Russians, “civilians are just a target,” he wrote Tuesday on Facebook. “Shelling will be repeated.” He warned that any residents who stay in Bakhmut are risking their lives.

More than 12 million Ukrainians have been displaced from their homes, according to the United Nations.

An air raid alert was declared over Kyiv and most of Ukraine on Tuesday night, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, underscoring how the fighting — which has recently been focused on the country’s ravaged east — is far from over.

Here are updates from across the country:

— Slovyansk: At least two people were killed and seven injured after Russia fired missiles at a market and residential area in this eastern Ukrainian city, authorities said Tuesday. A regional leader in Donetsk — the region that encompasses Slovyansk - accused Russia of committing terrorist acts by targeting civilian structures and urged residents to quickly evacuate. Slovyansk is strategically important to the defense of the broader region, which Russian forces are focused on capturing.

— Luhansk: A Ukrainian regional leader said Tuesday that there are pockets of resistance in this area, although Ukrainian forces have retreated from Lysychansk, their last significant foothold in Luhansk. Ukrainian forces managed to repel the invading army at a settlement that sits between Luhansk and Donetsk, the official said.

— Khmelnytskyi: Russia launched four missiles at this city in Ukraine’s relatively peaceful west, according to a local official. Ukraine shot down one of them, he said Tuesday evening on Telegram, but three others targeted a water tower, injuring one person in the explosions.

Russia could impose a complete ban on cargo transit through the Baltic countries in retaliation for Lithuania’s recent round of restrictions linked to European Union sanctions, the governor of the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad said Tuesday.

“The last variant [of countermeasures] I voiced is a complete ban on imports and exports of any goods via the Baltics,” governor Anton Alikhanov said on Russia 24, a state-owned television network. “Thus, we prohibit the movement of goods toward the Baltics across Russia, with the exception of Kaliningrad.”

In June, Lithuania restricted the transit of steel, ferrous metals and other sanctioned goods to Kaliningrad, as E.U. sanctions took effect. The country said it was acting under guidelines set by the European Commission.

Kaliningrad, the headquarters of Russia’s Baltic Sea Fleet, is between Lithuania and Poland, which are both in the E.U. and NATO. It gets much of its supplies via Lithuania and Belarus.

Moscow says that the Lithuanian transit restrictions breached international agreements, and it threatened the country with countermeasures.

Alikhanov added that his latest proposal would be “an extreme, serious reciprocal measure.”

President Joe Biden has read a letter from WNBA star Brittney Griner asking for his administration’s help in securing her release from a Russian prison, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Tuesday.

In the letter, which her agency said was delivered to the White House on the Fourth of July, Griner asked Biden to “do all you can to bring us home,” in reference to other Americans detained abroad. The eight-time WNBA all-star has been jailed in Russia since February on drug charges. U.S. officials say she is wrongfully detained.

“I was there when he read the letter,” Jean-Pierre said. The president will “use every tool” to bring home U.S. nationals held abroad, including Griner, she said.

Jean-Pierre said she had no other information to provide regarding a potential call or meeting with Griner’s family after a reporter asked whether Biden would contact the basketball player’s wife, Cherelle. In an appearance Tuesday on “CBS Mornings,” Cherelle Griner said it was “very disheartening” not to have heard from the president.

National security adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have spoken with Cherelle Griner in recent weeks, Biden officials have said.

Nearly 1,200 prominent Black women signed a letter to Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris urging the administration to secure Brittney Griner’s release from a Russian prison, an escalation of a pressure campaign by the WNBA star’s supporters that comes as her trial proceeds in a court outside Moscow.

The letter, which was delivered to the White House on Tuesday afternoon, was signed by a collection of Black female leaders from the realms of sports, entertainment, labor, business, politics and faith. It claimed Griner is “enduring inhumane conditions” during her imprisonment and said, “It is imperative, President Biden, that you address this ongoing human rights crisis and make a deal to bring Brittney home quickly and safely.”

The letter arrived one day after a letter to Biden from the Phoenix Mercury center, handwritten from her cell, was delivered to the White House on Independence Day. In Griner’s letter, excerpts of which were released by her agents, she wrote, “I’m terrified I might be here forever,” and asked Biden to do “whatever you can do at this moment to get me home.”

The Washington Post’s Dave Sheinin contributed to this report.


Stripes in 7



around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up