- Advanced US rockets will not be fired at Russia – official
- Russia conducts nuclear exercises
- Russian forces tighten their grip on the city of Sievierodonetsk
- Russia cuts more gas to Europe after EU oil ban deal
KYIV, June 1 (Reuters) – Russian troops on Wednesday launched their assault on a targeted factory town in their bid to seize part of eastern Ukraine, while the United States said that they would provide advanced rockets to Kyiv to help force Moscow to negotiate an end to the war.
The Ukrainian General Staff said Russian forces, now 98 days after their invasion, were shelling infrastructure in the eastern and southern regions, including the symbolically important industrial city of Sievierodonetsk, the main target of the Moscow offensive in recent days.
President Joe Biden has announced the supply of sniper rocket systems and munitions that could hit Russian targets at long range, part of a $700 million weapons package expected to be unveiled on Wednesday. Read more
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“We acted quickly to send Ukraine a significant amount of weapons and ammunition so that it could fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table,” wrote Biden in a New York Times opinion piece.
A senior Biden administration official said the new supplies — which add up to billions of dollars in other equipment such as drones and anti-aircraft missiles — included the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System M142 (HIMARS), which Kyiv says is “crucial”. to counter Russian missile attacks.
Moscow has assessed the new US aid program “extremely negatively”, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov told the official RIA Novosti news agency.
Responding to concerns that such weapons could draw the United States into direct conflict, senior administration officials said Ukraine had assured the missiles would not be used to strike inside Russia. .
“These systems will be used by the Ukrainians to repel Russian advances on Ukrainian territory, but they will not be used on targets in Russian territory,” a US official said.
Shortly after the US decision was announced, the Russian Defense Ministry said Russian nuclear forces were holding exercises in Ivanovo province, northeast of Moscow, Interfax news agency reported. .
Some 1,000 military personnel were practicing intense maneuvers using more than 100 vehicles, including Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, the ministry said. Read more
There was no mention of the American decision to supply new weapons in the Interfax report.
Russia has also completed testing of its Zircon hypersonic cruise missile and will deploy it by the end of the year on a new frigate from its Northern Fleet, a senior army officer said on Wednesday. Read more
The Ukrainian General Staff said Russian forces continued to shell the northern, southern and eastern districts of Sievierodonetsk, in Luhansk, one of two provinces in the eastern Donbass region that Moscow claims on behalf of the separatists.
If Russia captures Sievierodonetsk and its smaller twin Lysychansk on the upper west bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, it will hold all of Luhansk, a key war objective for President Vladimir Putin’s forces.
Russian forces now control around 70% of the city, regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said. He previously said the city had been largely reduced to rubble and Russian shelling had made it impossible to deliver aid or evacuate people.
“Some Ukrainian troops have retreated to more advantageous and prepared positions,” Gaidai said on the Telegram messaging app. He said Lysychansk was easier to defend because it is located on a hill, but Russian forces would target it with artillery and mortars once they had full control of Sievierodonetsk.
The leader of the pro-Moscow Luhansk People’s Republic, Leonid Pasechnik, told the TASS news agency that Russian proxies had moved slower than expected to protect the city’s infrastructure and “use caution around its factories. chemicals”.
Gaidai urged residents of Sievierodonetsk not to leave bomb shelters due to what he said was a Russian airstrike on a nitric acid tank. Police of the Luhansk People’s Republic accused Ukrainian forces of damaging it. Read more
Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council’s aid agency, which had long operated from Sievierodonetsk, said up to 12,000 civilians remained trapped in the crossfire, without sufficient access to water , food, medicine or electricity.
“Near-constant shelling is forcing civilians into bomb shelters and basements, with only a few precious opportunities for those trying to escape,” he said.
Ukraine says weapons sent by the United States and other countries since the start of the invasion have helped repel Russian gains.
The new US package includes munitions, counterfire radars, a number of air surveillance radars, additional Javelin anti-tank missiles, as well as anti-armour weapons, officials said.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, accused by critics of dragging his feet on aid to Ukraine, said on Wednesday that Berlin would supply Kyiv with its IRIS-T medium-range surface-to-air defense system.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called for more weapons while lambasting the European Union, which on Monday agreed to cut Russian oil imports, for not earlier sanctioning energy from Russia.
The EU has said it will ban imports of Russian oil by sea. Officials said it would halt two-thirds of Russia’s oil exports to Europe initially, and 90% by the end of this year. Read more
In response to the EU oil embargo, Russia has widened its gas cuts to Europe, driving up prices and intensifying its economic battle with Brussels. Read more
The war disrupted Ukrainian exports of wheat and other staples, hitting consumers with higher food prices, especially in the world’s poorest countries.
Pope Francis on Wednesday called for the lifting of all blockages on wheat exports from Ukraine, saying the grain should not be used as a “weapon of war”. Read more
Putin launched his “special operation” on February 24 to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and its Western allies call it a baseless pretext for a war to take over territory.
Ukraine accuses Russia of large-scale war crimes, razing cities and killing and raping civilians. Russia denies the charges.
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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Stephen Coates and Gareth Jones; Editing by Lincoln Feast and Frank Jack Daniel
Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.