Some residents see clear signs that Russian-installed authorities are seeking to bind the city, and the surrounding Kherson region, to Moscow.
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Zelenskyy hailed the dismissal of top members of the nation's security and law enforcement agencies as part of a process of "self-purification."
The Russian assault will now switch its focus to the rest of the Donbas industrial heartland, but Kyiv may be more prepared to defend the areas.
Ukraine said it had driven Russian forces off the island after an artillery and missile assault, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hailing the strategic win.
Moscow's capture of Sievierodonetsk is likely to be hailed by Russia as evidence that its switch from "lightning warfare" to a much slower grinding offensive is paying off.
With the war continuing, Russia's state gas company said it halted gas exports to Finland, which refused Moscow's demands to pay in rubles.
The influx of Western heavy guns could give Ukraine an edge in a war that has revolved around artillery duels.
Russia's invasion of Ukraine looks designed to take Kyiv and create a land corridor south to the Black Sea, splitting the country into two, military analysts and former officials said.
Ukrainian authorities deny planning any kind of assault, and fear that attempts to create a pretext for a Russian invasion are growing.
For Putin, the procession of foreign dignitaries flying in for talks is already a win, pushing Moscow's security worries to the top of the world agenda.