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Ukraine round-up: Russia's food war and dead soldiers abandoned

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A self-propelled howitzer 2S1 Gvozdika of pro-Russian troops fires a leaflet shell in the direction of SievierodonetskImage source, Reuters
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Russia has flattened large areas of Severodonetsk during weeks of bombardment

Russian forces have reached the outskirts of a key city in the Donbas region, Severodonetsk, which Ukraine says is under 24-hour a day bombardment as Russia attempts to take full control.

But reports that Russia controls a vital arterial road south-west of the city are untrue, a Ukrainian official has told the BBC.

"They can't take the city so they have decided to try to destroy it, and to make our troops leave the city," Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Haidai said.

Russia now controls nearly all of Luhansk, one of two eastern regions that makes up Donbas.

'The main thing is to stay alive'

Image source, AFP via Getty Images
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Thousands of civilians are still in Severodonetsk as Russians encircle the last Ukrainian soldiers in the region of Luhansk

The Ukrainian army is under more pressure than at any time since the first desperate weeks after the Russian invasion, writes the BBC's Jeremy Bowen.

He's been close to the front line in Donbas, hearing from civilians caught up in the fighting.

One man, Mitra, just shrugged when asked if he would accept a deal that allowed Russia to control all of Donbas.

"I don't know. What could it change for me? The main thing is to stay alive," he said.

Bodies of Russian soldiers abandoned

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The bodies of dozens of dead Russian soldiers discovered near Kyiv have been placed in refrigerated train carriages

Russia has a proud slogan: "we don't abandon our own". It is used to help justify Russia's invasion of Ukraine, where, according to Vladimir Putin, Russian speakers need protection from a neo-Nazi regime.

But it is Ukrainian authorities, not Russian, who are trying to identify the bodies of Russian soldiers who died on the battlefields near Kyiv.

Ukraine says Russia shows little interest in getting them back.

"The bodies we've found show they treat people as rubbish, as cannon fodder," Col Volodymyr Liamzin told the BBC. "They don't need their soldiers. They throw them here, retreat - and leave the bodies."

But the delay in collecting bodies isn't unique to Russia, and the BBC has heard from several Ukrainian families who say their own government has been less than helpful in recovering the remains of Ukrainian soldiers from the battlefield.

Russia's food war

Russia has offered to provide safe passage to vessels carrying food from Ukraine in return for the lifting of some sanctions, according to Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko cited by the Interfax news agency.

Before the invasion, Ukraine's fertile fields provided grain to countries around the world via its ports on the Black Sea. But Russia has imposed a naval blockade, making it impossible for the grain and other important food products to leave Ukraine.

The blockade is one reason for the rising food prices around the world.

The West has accused the Russian military of holding food supplies hostage for millions around the world, as the BBC's Ros Atkins explains.

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Watch: Ros Atkins on... Russia's food war