Russian forces focus on eastern Ukraine

Russia is focusing its forces and firepower on the last Ukrainian stronghold in eastern Luhansk region. Ukrainian officials described conditions in the city of Severodonetsk as "hellish."

Speaking to the Associated Press, the region's governor said Ukrainian troops have been pushed back to a chemical plant. He said much of Severodonetsk is on fire and Russian shelling has been relentless.

Ukraine's military said the eastern region of Kharkiv had also seen a spike in attacks by Russian artillery.

One 60-year-old resident told NHK by phone that people living there were trapped. The resident said, "We can only go to the Russian side. We can't evacuate to Ukrainian territory."

Meanwhile, pro-Russian forces in the Crimea Peninsula have accused Ukraine's military of attacking oil and gas facilities operating in the Black Sea. Three people have been injured and at least seven workers are missing.

Officials in the Russian-annexed peninsula said the attack would not impact energy supplies. Gas shortages are a growing issue in Western Europe.

Germany has reportedly seen a significant drop in Russian exports through the Nord Stream 1 gas pipeline.
Moscow attributes this to Western sanctions.

In a statement, a Kremlin spokesperson said Russia was ready to supply its gas. But he added that sanctions imposed by the European Union had created a technological hurdle for the pipeline's operators.
Russia also accused the EU of creating a "man-made" energy crisis and said it may step up attacks in Ukraine in retaliation.