WRAPUP 9-Russian shelling triggers fire in eastern city of Sievierodonetsk -governor

Reuters could not independently verify the report. Speaking on national television, Gaidai said non-stop fighting was raging in Sievierodonetsk, a small city in Luhansk that has become the focus of Russia's advance in eastern Ukraine.


Reuters | Updated: 11-06-2022 22:37 IST | Created: 11-06-2022 22:37 IST
WRAPUP 9-Russian shelling triggers fire in eastern city of Sievierodonetsk -governor

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, the regional governor said, as the battle for the city raged on.

Russian forces' bid to seize Sievierodonetsk has become one of the bloodiest battles since their Feb. 24 invasion, with neither side delivering a knock-out blow in weeks of fighting that has pulverised chunks of the city. The governor of Luhansk province, Serhiy Gaidai, did not say if the fire at the plant, where hundreds of civilians are sheltering, had been extinguished. Reuters could not independently verify the report.

Speaking on national television, Gaidai said non-stop fighting was raging in Sievierodonetsk, a small city in Luhansk that has become the focus of Russia's advance in eastern Ukraine. He said earlier on Saturday that Russian forces controlled most of the city but Ukraine controlled the Azot chemical plant. Ukraine has appealed for swifter 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 than Ukrainian forces. Yet even when outgunned, Ukraine's army has proved more resilient than expected in early phases of fighting.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy struck a defiant note on Saturday. "We are definitely going to prevail in this war that Russia has started," Zelenskiy told a conference in Singapore via videolink. "It is on the battlefields in Ukraine that the future rules of this world are being decided."

After Russia was forced to scale back its initial more sweeping campaign goals, Moscow has turned to expanding control in the east, where pro-Russian separatists had already held a swathe of territory since 2014. The eastern region known as the Donbas includes the provinces of Luhansk, where Sievierodonetsk lies, and Donetsk.

Russian strikes knocked out power supplies in Donetsk's two largest Ukrainian-controlled cities on Saturday, Kramatorsk and Sloviansk, regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko wrote on the Telegram app. Speaking later on national television, he said the move was part of a deliberate strategy to cut off electricity in towns in Donetsk that remain in Ukrainian hands. "The enemy understands where he is hitting, and for what purpose,” he said.

GRAIN SHORTAGES The conflict between the neighbours - two of the world's biggest grain exporters - has reverberated well beyond Ukraine.

"If due to Russian blockades, we are unable to export our foodstuffs, which is so sorely missing in global markets, the world will face an acute and severe food crisis and famine - famine in many countries of Asia and Africa," Zelenskiy told the Shangri-La Dialogue conference in Singapore. The United Nations said on Friday up to 19 million more people in the world could face chronic hunger in the next year because of reduced wheat and other food exports.

Ukraine's deputy agriculture minister said on Saturday 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. Turkey has tried to secure a deal so Ukraine can resume shipments from its Black Sea ports, which accounted for 98% of its cereal and oilseed exports before the war. But Moscow says Kyiv must clear the ports of mines and Ukraine says it needs security guarantees so it is not left exposed.

Ukraine has repeatedly called for more Western arms and closer alignment with the West. "As Ukrainian forces use the last of their stocks of Soviet-era weapon systems and munitions, they will require consistent Western support to transition to new supply chains of ammunition and key artillery systems," the Institute for the Study of War said in a report on Friday.

"Effective artillery will be increasingly decisive in the largely static fighting in eastern Ukraine," it said. The battle for Sievierodonetsk and its destruction recall weeks of bombardment of the southern port city of Mariupol. It was reduced to ruins before Russian forces took control of the city last month, with the last Ukrainian defenders surrendering from their redoubt in the Azovstal steel plant.

Moscow has denied targeting civilians, but both sides say they have inflicted mass casualties on each other's forces. Reuters has not been able to independently verify the battlefield reports in the conflict.

Russia calls its actions a "special military operation" to disarm and "denazify" Ukraine, while Kyiv and its allies call it an unprovoked war of aggression to capture territory.

(This story has not been edited by Devdiscourse staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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