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Russia ‘highly likely’ to move to consolidate control of northeastern Donbas: UK

FILE – Servicemen of the militia from the Donetsk People’s Republic walk past damaged apartment buildings near the Illich Iron & Steel Works Metallurgical Plant, the second-largest metallurgical enterprise in Ukraine, in an area controlled by Russian-backed separatist forces in Mariupol, Ukraine, Saturday, April 16, 2022. Mariupol, which is part of the industrial region in eastern Ukraine known as the Donbas, has been a key objective for Russia since the start of the Feb. 24 invasion. (AP Photo/Alexei Alexandrov)

The United Kingdom’s defense ministry said on Wednesday that Russia is “highly likely” to try to capture the Ukrainian cities of Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk, effectively consolidating Moscow’s control of the Donbas region. 

Should that happen, Russia would have what the ministry called in its intelligence update a “staging point for their efforts to cut-off Ukrainian forces in the region.”

At least 21 civilians were left dead on Tuesday after attacks in the eastern Donbas region, according to The Associated Press, which cited Ukrainian officials. 

That death toll marks the highest known fatalities since at least 59 people were killed on April 8 after a missile struck a railway station in Kramatorsk, the news service noted.

Meanwhile, as Moscow’s forces intensified their attacks in the East, the European Union on Wednesday called on its 27 member nations to move forward with a ban on Russian oil imports. 

“We will make sure that we phase out Russian oil in an orderly fashion, in a way that allows us and our partners to secure alternative supply routes and minimizes the impact on global markets,” Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the European Commission, said to the European Parliament.

She noted that it “will not be easy” to get the member states to agree to the new sanctions, which would need to be unanimously approved to take effect.

The bloc gets roughly a quarter of its oil from Russia, most of which is used for gasoline and diesel for vehicles.

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