Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now
Russian shelling of the Azot chemical plant in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk caused a strong fire on Saturday after a leak of tonnes of oil, Serhiy Gaidai, the Luhansk governor said, as the battle for the city raged on.
FIGHTING * President Volodymyr Zelenskiy insisted Ukraine would prevail in its almost four-month-long war with Russia, which has become focussed on a grinding artillery slugging match over Sievierodonetsk. * Ukraine’s army command said Russian troops had secured positions in two communities near Sievierodonetsk, while Gaidai said earlier Saturday that Russians were in control of “most” of the city. * Ukraine remains in control of the Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk where hundreds of civilians are sheltering, Gaidai said, after a Russia-backed separatist claimed 300 to 400 Ukrainian fighters were also trapped there. * “Intense street to street fighting is ongoing and both sides are likely suffering high numbers of casualties,” Britain’s Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence update on Twitter. * The Russian Defence Ministry said its air defense forces had shot down two MiG-29 planes in the Mikolayiv region and one Su-25 fighter jet in the Kharkiv region. There was no immediate comment from Ukraine. * The office of Ukraine’s prosecutor general said it has learned about the deaths of 24 more children in Mariupol, the southeastern port that was besieged for weeks before Russian forces captured it in mid-May.
PRISONERS * The family of British man Shaun Pinner who has been sentenced to death by a court by Russian proxy authorities in Donbas have spoken of their devastation at the news and asked that he be exchanged or released.
ECONOMY, DIPLOMACY * Zelenskiy said his country was unable to export enough food because of a Russian blockade, and that the world would face “an acute and severe food crisis and famine.” * Up to 300,000 tonnes of grain may have been stored in warehouses in the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv that Kyiv says were destroyed by Russian shelling last weekend, deputy agriculture minister Taras Vysotskyi said. * European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told Zelenskiy during a visit to Kyiv that the EU executive’s opinion on Ukraine’s request to join the European Union would be ready by the end of next week.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is what happens when oppressors trample the rules that protect us all,” U.S. Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told an Asian security forum. “It’s a preview of a possible world of chaos and turmoil that none of us would want to live in.” (Compiled by Kim Coghill, Frances Kerry and Jonathan Oatis)