Russia is tightening access to the Ukrainian factory city and complaining about US missile deliveries

  • Zelenskyy calls on the West to step up arms supplies to Ukraine
  • Says Russian troops now occupy about 20% of Ukraine
  • Russian troops advance further into the Donbass region
  • Also strike targets in western and southern Ukraine

Kyiv, June 2 (Reuters) – Russian forces tightened their grip on a Ukrainian industrial city as part of their bid to control the eastern Donbass region, targeting rail links used to haul arms from Kiev’s western allies, as the war neared its 100th day Friday.

Russia has accused the United States of “pouring fuel on the fire” after President Joe Biden announced a $700 million weapons package for Ukraine that will include advanced missile systems with a range of up to 80 km (50 miles). .

Speaking at a forum in Slovakia on Thursday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Kyiv was grateful for the military aid it had received, but added: “Arms supplies should be stepped up… (to) ensure a turning point in this confrontation.”

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The Biden administration said Ukraine has promised not to use the missile systems to hit targets in Russia. Biden hopes that expanding Ukraine’s artillery range will help persuade Russia to negotiate an end to a war that has killed thousands, leveled cities and forced more than six million people to flee the country.

“Ukraine needs weapons to liberate Ukrainian territory that Russia has temporarily occupied. We are not fighting on Russian territory, we are interested in our sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said Andriy Yermak, Zelenskyy’s chief of staff, shaking off Moscow’s criticism of the US decision from .

Moscow has said it considers Ukraine’s infrastructure, used to smuggle Western weapons, a legitimate target in its so-called “military special operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of ultranationalists who the Kremlin says threaten Russian security.

“The pumping of (Western) weapons into Ukraine does not change all the parameters of the special operation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a conference call.

“Your goals will be achieved, but this will bring more suffering to Ukraine,” Peskov replied when asked if US plans to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones, armed with Hellfire missiles for the mission can be armed on the battlefield, could change the parameters of the conflict.

Four Russian missiles struck rail infrastructure targets in two locations in the western Lviv region bordering Poland late Wednesday, Gov. Maksym Kozytskyi said, injuring five people and causing significant damage.

DONBAS CITY IN FOCUS

Zelenskyy told Luxembourg’s parliament via video link on Thursday that Russian forces currently occupy about 20% of all Ukrainian territory and that battlefronts now stretch for more than 1,000 km (620 miles).

Russian forces, supported by heavy artillery, control most of Sievierodonetsk – now largely in ruins – after days of fierce fighting in which they have suffered casualties, Britain’s Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence report.

“The enemy is conducting offensive operations in the Sievierodonetsk settlement,” the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said, adding that Russian forces are also attacking other parts of the east and north-east.

At least four civilians were killed and ten injured in the east and northeast, other officials said.

Russia denies attacks on civilians.

If Russia fully conquers Sievierodonetsk and its smaller twin Lysychansk on the west bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, it would hold all of Luhansk, one of two provinces – with Donetsk – in the Donbass claimed by Moscow on behalf of the separatists.

The capture of Luhansk would fulfill one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s stated goals and cement a shift in battlefield momentum after his forces were pushed back from the capital Kyiv and northern Ukraine.

Ukrainian General Oleksiy Gromov said at a briefing that Russian forces were attempting to attack the village of Berestov, which lies on a main road connecting Lysychansk – also under heavy Russian shelling – to the rest of the country.

Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said Russian forces were attempting to advance south towards the key Ukrainian-held cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, both in Donetsk province.

GLOBAL IMPACT

The war has had a massive impact on the global economy. Russia has seized some of Ukraine’s largest seaports and its navy controls key Black Sea transport routes, blocking Ukrainian supplies and fueling a global food crisis.

Russia and Ukraine together account for nearly a third of global wheat shipments, while Russia is also a major exporter of fertilizers and Ukraine is a major supplier of corn and sunflower oil.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko said Kyiv is working with international partners to create a UN-backed mission to restore Black Sea shipping routes and enable exports of Ukrainian agricultural products. Continue reading

In further evidence of Ukraine’s economic strain, the Central Bank of Ukraine raised interest rates from 10% to a seven-year high of 25% on Thursday to stem rising inflation and protect the hryvnia currency. Bank Governor Kyrylo Shevchenko also said it was time to start talks with the International Monetary Fund on a new economic support program.

Moscow this week slammed a decision by the European Union to cut 90% of oil imports from Russia by the end of 2022 as “self-defeating” and said it could destabilize global energy markets. Continue reading

The conflict has also shaken Europe’s security arrangements, prompting Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership, although NATO member Turkey is blocking the move and accusing Stockholm and Helsinki of harboring people linked to Kurdish militants.

The topic will be on the agenda when Biden receives NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the White House on Thursday. Stoltenberg told reporters he would soon convene a meeting in Brussels with Swedish, Finnish and Turkish officials to discuss the matter.

In a rare moment of joy for Ukraine, their football team secured a place in this year’s World Cup with a 3-1 win over Scotland on Wednesday night.

“Sometimes you don’t need many words! Just pride… They went out, fought, persevered and won. Because they are Ukrainians!” Zelenskiy said in a message posted on the Telegram app alongside a picture of the players celebrating.

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Reporting by Reuters bureaus; writing by Robert Birsel and Gareth Jones; Edited by Stephen Coates, Raju Gopalakrishnan, Nick Macfie and Catherine Evans

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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