Ukraine says it retains control of Sievierodonetsk factory which houses hundreds of people

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  • Russia targets Sievierodonetsk in the east
  • Bombing causes fire after oil leak at chemical plant, governor says
  • Ukraine urges West to quickly deliver more heavy weapons
  • War blocks vital Ukrainian grain exports from the Black Sea

Kyiv, June 11 (Reuters) – Ukraine retains control of the Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk, where hundreds of civilians are sheltering amid fierce fighting, the region’s governor said on Saturday, after that a Russian-backed separatist claimed that 300 to 400 Ukrainian fighters were also present. trapped there.

Earlier, Governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russian shelling of the Luhansk province factory sparked a big fire after tons of oil leaked. Read more

In neighboring Donetsk province, Russian media reported that a huge cloud of smoke could be seen after an explosion in the town of Avdiivka, which is home to another chemical plant. Read more

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Weeks of fighting for Sievierodonetsk, a small town of Luhansk that has become the center of Russia’s advance into eastern Ukraine, have pulverized sections of the city and been among the bloodiest since Moscow began its invasion on February 24.

“The information about the Azot plant blockade is a lie,” Gaidai said on the Telegram messaging app. “Our forces hold an industrial area of ​​Sievierodonetsk and destroy the Russian army in the city.” Read more

Ukraine said some 800 people were hiding in several bomb shelters under the Azot plant, including around 200 employees and 600 residents of Sievierodonetsk.

Rodion Miroshnik, a Russian-backed representative of the self-declared Luhansk People’s Republic, said on Saturday evening that some civilians had started to leave and that Ukrainian forces may be holding several hundred civilians “hostage”.

Earlier, he said 300-400 Ukrainian fighters were stuck on the factory grounds along with civilians.

Gaidai said earlier that Russian forces controlled most of the city, although Ukraine controls the Azot plant.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff said on Facebook that Ukrainian forces repelled a Russian attack on three small towns northwest of Sloviansk in Donetsk province, while fighting continued in a fourth settlement in the province. region, as well as to the east of the city.

Russian strikes knocked out power Saturday in the two largest Ukrainian-controlled cities of Donetsk, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

In a short video address on Saturday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that while “fierce street fighting continues in Sievierodonetsk”, the Ukrainian army is gradually liberating territory further west in the Kherson region and has also achieved some success in Zaporizhzhia.

“We are definitely going to prevail in this war that Russia has started,” he told a conference in Singapore via video link earlier in the day. “It is on the battlefields in Ukraine that the future rules of this world are decided.” Read more

Reuters could not independently verify reports from the battlefield.

Ukraine has called for faster deliveries of heavy weapons from the West to turn the tide of the war, saying Russian forces have at least 10 times more artillery pieces.

Ukrainian forces have proven more resilient than expected, but, in a report released on Friday, the US Institute for War Studies said that as they use the last of their stockpiles of arms and ammunition from the Soviet era, they will need constant Western weapons. support for the transition to new Western supplies and systems.

The institute said effective artillery would be “increasingly decisive in the largely static fighting in eastern Ukraine”.

EUROPEAN TALKS

On Saturday, German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, citing French and Ukrainian government sources, said German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will travel to Kyiv with French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi ahead of the Group of Seven summit at the end of June. Read more

A German government spokesman told Reuters they were unable to confirm the report and the Elysee Palace in Paris declined to confirm it. The Italian government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

None of the three leaders have been to Kyiv since the Russian invasion. Macron has sought to maintain a dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin, a stance that some Eastern European and Baltic countries see as undermining efforts to push him into negotiations.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told Zelenskiy during a visit to Kyiv on Saturday that the EU executive’s opinion on Ukraine’s application for membership of the European Union would be ready. by the end of next week. Read more

The 27 EU governments would have to agree to grant candidate status to Ukraine, after which there would be in-depth discussions on the reforms needed before Kyiv could be considered for membership.

Referring to those who are skeptical of Ukraine’s EU bid, Zelenskiy said keeping Ukraine out of the bloc would go against Europe. He described his talks with von der Leyen as “very fruitful” and added: “there will be many more important and hopefully fruitful talks with European leaders next week.”

GRAIN SHORTAGE

The conflict between Ukraine and Russia, two of the world’s largest grain exporters, has reverberated far beyond Ukraine.

The United Nations said on Friday that up to 19 million more people around the world could face chronic hunger next year due to reduced exports of wheat and other foodstuffs.

Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister said on Saturday that up to 300,000 tons of grain may have been stored in warehouses at the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv which Kyiv said was destroyed by Russian shelling over the weekend -end last. Read more

Turkey has sought a deal so Ukraine can resume shipments from its Black Sea ports, which accounted for 98% of its grain and oilseed exports before the war. But Moscow says Kyiv must clear ports and Ukraine says it needs security guarantees not to be exposed. Read more

The battle for Sievierodonetsk recalls weeks of bombardment of the southern port city of Mariupol, which was reduced to rubble before Russian forces took control of it last month.

Moscow has turned to expanding control in the eastern Donbass region, where pro-Russian separatists have already held some territory since 2014, after being forced to scale back its initial, more ambitious campaign goals.

He calls his actions a “special military operation” to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine. Kyiv and its allies call it an unprovoked war of aggression to capture territory.

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Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Max Hunder Additional reporting by Reuters offices Writing by Edmund Blair, Frances Kerry and David Brunnstrom; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Jonathan Oatis

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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