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Russia said on Sunday it had destroyed a large stockpile of weapons supplied by the United States and European countries in western Ukraine and stepped up its offensive in the east in a key battle for Severodonetsk, where the defenders appeared to be struggling.

A rare Russian bombardment of the town of Chortkiv, in western Ukraine, which has remained relatively untouched by the war, left 22 wounded, local governor Volodimir Trush reported on Sunday.

The governor added that the four missiles fired from the Black Sea partially destroyed a military installation and several residential buildings, leaving 22 injured, including a 12-year-old boy.

The Russian Defense Ministry said the bombing of Chortkiv destroyed a “large stockpile of anti-tank missile systems, man-portable air defense systems and howitzers supplied to the kyiv regime by the United States and European countries.”

The United States and the EU have sent weapons and funds to help Ukraine stop the Russians from advancing, as well as imposing unprecedented sanctions against Moscow.

Meanwhile, in the east, the situation in the key town of Severodonetsk is extremely “difficult” after Russian troops destroyed a second bridge and launched heavy bombardment against the third and final bridge, Governor Sergei Gaidai said.

The governor described the situation as “difficult”, and stated that the destruction of the bridges seeks to isolate the city.

Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, separated by a river, have resisted attacks for weeks and are the last Ukrainian positions in the Lugansk region.

At the diplomatic level, the president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, promised on Saturday in kyiv that the bloc will deliver a clear signal at the end of the week about Ukraine’s ambition to be a candidate for membership of the European Union.

Von der Leyen stressed that the former Soviet republic “has made progress in strengthening the rule of law, but still needs to implement reforms to fight corruption,” von der Leyen said.

Despite reservations from some member states, the candidacy is expected to receive a green light at the bloc’s next summit on June 23-24.

“The challenge will be to leave the (EU) Council with a united position, reflecting the importance of this historic decision,” von der Leyen said during his return trip to Poland.

Ukraine’s geopolitical vulnerability was exposed by Russia’s February 24 invasion, which has left thousands dead and forced millions to flee their homes, leaving entire swathes of the country reduced to rubble.

Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky said on Saturday that this is a “decisive” moment.

“Russia wants to destroy European unity, wants to divide Europe and weaken it. The whole of Europe is a target for Russia. Ukraine is only the first step,” he said.

– “Russian McDonald’s” open –

Sanctions against Moscow have hit the Russian economy hard and also prompted an exodus of Western businesses, including outlets of the US fast-food chain McDonald’s.

The emblematic place in Moscow’s Pushkin Square – where Russia’s first McDonald’s opened in 1990, generating long lines – reopened this Sunday as a Russian brand.

The premises are now called “Vkousno i tochka” (“Delicious. Period”) and although they no longer use the famous yellow logo, they seek to give customers a familiar flavor.

burs-ar/an/mb

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