(Reuters) – The United States accused Russia of planning to stage fake independence votes to justify its conquest of territory in Ukraine, as Russian forces stepped up an assault on the east. 

  The U.S. mission to the OSCE said the Kremlin might attempt “sham referenda” in southern and eastern areas it had captured since the Feb. 24 invasion, using “a well-worn playbook that steals from history’s darkest chapters”. 

  NATO is ready to maintain support for Ukraine for years in the war against Russia, including help for Kyiv to shift from Soviet-era weapons to modern Western arms and systems, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said. 

  FIGHTING 

  * “The enemy is increasing the pace of the offensive operation. The Russian occupiers are exerting intense fire in almost all directions,” Ukraine’s military command said. 

  * Ukraine fired three rockets at the centre of the southern city of Kherson but Russian occupying forces shot down two of them, RIA news agency cited a security source as saying. 

  * A Ukrainian soldier holed up in a steel works in Mariupol said his forces would fight for as long as needed. He urged world leaders to find a way to save civilians and hundreds of troops trapped in Russia’s “medieval” siege. 

  * Russian forces used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse a pro-Ukraine rally in the occupied city of Kherson, Ukraine’s prosecutor general said, as Moscow tightened its grip over the southern region. 

  * Western countries are openly calling on Ukraine to attack Russia and the West should take Moscow seriously when it says strikes on Russian territory will lead to a response, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said. 

  Reports of battlefield developments could not be immediately verified by Reuters. 

  DIPLOMACY 

  * Ukraine’s lead negotiator said no agreement had been reached for the Ukrainian and Russian presidents to discuss the war despite efforts by Turkey to arrange talks. 

  HUMAN AND ECONOMIC IMPACT 

  * The bodies of 1,150 civilians have been recovered in Ukraine’s Kyiv region since Russia’s invasion and 50-70% of them have bullet wounds from small arms, Kyiv police said. 

  * Real disposable incomes in Russia dropped 27.8% in the first quarter of 2022, the official statistics service said, pointing to a slide in purchasing power since the Ukraine conflict began. 

  QUOTES 

  * “The situation is difficult, but we’re going to battle and fight for as long as we have to,” said Captain Sviatoslav Palamar, a deputy commander in Ukraine’s Azov Regiment, from the besieged steel works in …read more

Source:: AOL.com

      

Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

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