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Putin Pressures World, Warning of Long Conflict

FILE: Smoke rises after shelling during Ukraine-Russia conflict in Donetsk, Ukraine, 7.6.2022

Russian President Vladimir Putin is pressuring the international community with a warning that Moscow's military operations in Ukraine had barely begun. He also said the prospects for negotiating an end to the Ukraine invasion would grow dimmer the longer the conflict dragged on.

As Russian forces make advances in Ukraine's extreme eastern region, Putin told Russian lawmakers "We have heard many times that the West wants to fight us to the last Ukrainian. This is a tragedy for the Ukrainian people, but it seems that everything is heading towards this." signaling a willingness to make this a lengthy war of attrition.

The biggest conflict in Europe since World War Two has killed thousands, displaced millions and flattened Ukrainian cities.

After failing to quickly take the capital Kyiv, Russia is now waging a war of total destruction in Ukraine's industrial heartland of the Donbas, made up of the regions of Luhansk and Donetsk.

On Sunday, Moscow declared it had "liberated" Luhansk and now plans to capture parts of neighboring Donetsk it does not control.

On the frontlines in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region, officials reported continued Russian shelling of towns and villages ahead of an anticipated new push to grasp more territory.

Meanwhile, Western officials on Friday tried to coax Russia into allowing Ukraine to ship its grain out to the world as the four-month-old war threatened to bring hunger to countries far away from the battlefields.

Moscow, however, accused the West of waging economic warfare on Russia by attempting to isolate it with sanctions imposed over the Feb. 24 invasion.

At a meeting of G20 foreign ministers in Bali, Indonesia, some of the staunchest critics of the Russian invasion confronted the Kremlin's top diplomat Sergei Lavrov.

High on their concerns was getting grain shipments from Ukraine out of blockaded Black Sea ports. Ukraine is a top exporter and aid agencies have warned that countries in Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere face devastating food shortages if supplies do not reach them.

At a plenary session, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Moscow to let Ukrainian grain out to the world, a Western official said.

"He addressed Russia directly, saying: 'To our Russian colleagues: Ukraine is not your country. Its grain is not your grain. Why are you blocking the ports? You should let the grain out,'" the official said.

Earlier, Lavrov had berated the West, saying that instead of focusing on how to tackle global economic problems at the meeting, ministers had embarked on "frenzied criticism" of Russia over the Ukraine conflict.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in his nightly video message, said the raising of the Ukrainian flag on Snake Island in the Black Sea on Thursday was a sign his country would not be broken.

"Let every Russian captain, aboard a ship or a plane, see the Ukrainian flag on Snake Island and let him know that our country will not be broken," Zelenskiy said.