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Ukraine says situation ‘difficult’ amid fierce fighting near Bakhmut

Ukraine said Monday the situation was “difficult” in a village just north of Bakhmut, a day after the Russian paramilitary group Wagner claimed control of another settlement near the eastern Ukrainian city that has been the stage for the longest battle of the invasion. Follow FRANCE 24 for live updates. All times are Paris time (GMT+1).

“The situation is difficult near Soledar: the village of Paraskoviivka is under intense shelling and assaults,” the presidency said in its daily report.

Soledar, captured by Russian troops in January, is just north of Bakhmut, which Russians have been trying to seize for over six months. Paraskoviivka is further down the road, just at the gates of Bakhmut.

The Ukrainian general staff said that Russian troops had shelled 16 settlements near Bakhmut with tanks, mortars and artillery the previous day.

12:45pm: Ukraine accuses Italy’s Berlusconi of ‘ spreading Russian propaganda’
Ukraine accused former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi on Monday of spreading Russian propaganda after he said he would not seek a meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky if he were still head of government.

In comments on Sunday, Berlusconi said all Zelensk y had to do to prevent the war in Ukraine was to “stop attacking” territory held by Russia-backed separatists in the east and that he judged the president’s behaviour “very, very negatively”.

“Berlusconi’s ridiculous accusations against the Ukrainian president are an attempt to kiss Putin’s hands, which are covered in blood up to the elbows,” Oleg Nikolenko, spokesperson for Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry, wrote on Facebook.

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“At the same time, the Italian politician should understand that by spreading Russian propaganda he encourages Russia to continue its crimes against Ukraine, and therefore bears political and moral responsibility,” he said.

Berlusconi, 86, often boasted of his friendship with Russian President Vladimir Putin before Russia invaded Ukraine last year.

10:06am: Ukraine says energy needs are being met, three days after air strikes
Ukraine was meeting consumers’ energy needs on Monday after carrying out repairs to the national power network following the latest wave of Russian air strikes, Energy Minister German Galushchenko said.

Galushchenko said emergency repairs had been completed rapidly after Russian attacks on Friday that struck energy facilities across the country.

“And today, on the first business day of the week, despite a significant increase in consumption, Ukraine’s power system continues to meet the electricity needs of consumers,” Galushchenko said in a statement.

President Volodymyr Zelensky also hailed the repair efforts in an evening video address on Sunday, but said it was too soon to declare victory on the energy front.

8:20am: US tells citizens to depart Russia ‘immediately’
The United States has told its citizens to leave Russia immediately due to the war in Ukraine and the risk of arbitrary arrest or harassment by Russian law enforcement agencies.

“US citizens residing or travelling in Russia should depart immediately,” the US embassy in Moscow said. “Exercise increased caution due to the risk of wrongful detentions.”

“Do not travel to Russia,” the embassy said.

The United States has repeatedly warned its citizens to leave Russia. The last such public warning was in September after President Vladimir Putin ordered a partial mobilisation.

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“Russian security services have arrested US citizens on spurious charges, singled out US citizens in Russia for detention and harassment, denied them fair and transparent treatment, and convicted them in secret trials or without presenting credible evidence,” the embassy said.

4:15am: Russia says its troops on frontline in Ukraine advanced 2 km to west in four days
Russian troops have managed to advance 2 km (1.24 miles) to the west in four days along the frontline in Ukraine, the Interfax news agency reported on Monday, citing a statement by the Russian Defence Ministry.

“In four days the front moved 2 kilometres to the west.”

There were no details which part of the large frontline, encompassing several Ukrainian regions in the country’s south and east, has moved.