Russia strengthens control over Ukrainian city and criticizes the United States for supplying rockets

  • Russian forces advance in Sievierodonetsk, other areas
  • Russia says US weapons add fuel to the fire
  • Biden to meet with NATO chief

Kyiv, June 2 (Reuters) – Russian forces sought to extend and consolidate their control over the Ukrainian industrial city of Sievierodonetsk on Thursday, moving closer to claiming a big prize in their offensive in the eastern Donbas region.

But in a boost for Ukraine, locked in a fierce fight against Russia’s invading army, the United States has announced a $700 million weapons package for Kyiv that will include advanced rocket systems with a range of up to 80 km (50 miles). .

Russia accused the United States of adding “fuel to the fire”. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the supply of rocket launchers increases the risk of a “third country” being drawn into the conflict.

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Ukraine had promised it would not use the systems to hit targets inside Russia. President Joe Biden hopes expanding the range of Ukraine’s artillery will help Russia negotiate an end to the war, which turns 100 days on Friday.

After days of heavy fighting around Sievierodonetsk, much of which was destroyed by Russian bombardment, Russian troops were inching through the city’s streets. Ukraine says that about 70% of the city is under Russian control, with Russian troops in the city center.

“The enemy is carrying out assault operations on the Sievierodonetsk settlement,” the general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said on Thursday, adding that Russian forces were also attacking in other parts of the east and northeast.

At least four civilians were killed and 10 wounded in the east and northeast, other officials said.

Russia denies targeting civilians.

If Russia fully captures Sievierodonetsk and its smaller twin Lysychansk on the west bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, it would control all of Lugansk, one of two Donbas provinces that Moscow claims on behalf of the separatists.

The British Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence update that Russia controlled most of the city, which had a prewar population of about 101,000, and that Ukrainian forces had destroyed bridges across the river to Lysychansk.

Capturing all of Luhansk would fulfill one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s main goals and cement a shift in battlefield momentum after his forces were driven from the capital Kyiv and northern Ukraine.


Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai told Reuters civilians were sheltering from Russian attacks under a Sievierodonetsk chemical plant which he said was hit by an airstrike on Tuesday, releasing a large pink cloud. read more

“There are civilians in the bomb shelters, there are quite a few left,” Gaidai said. Reuters was unable to independently confirm the account.

Some 15,000 people remained in the city, Gaidai said.

Gaidai warned that the Ukrainian troops at Sievierodonetsk might be forced to withdraw to Lysychansk, which he said was easier to defend from its vantage point on a hill.

Putin sent his troops across the border in what he called a special military operation on February 24 to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and its allies call this a baseless pretext for a war of aggression and the West has imposed strict sanctions on Russia in an attempt to strangle its economy.

Thousands of people have been killed in Ukraine and millions more have been displaced since the invasion began. read more

Amid concerns about the global ramifications of the war, Ukraine’s grain merchants’ union said this year’s wheat harvest is likely to fall to 19.2 million tonnes from a record 33 million in 2021.

Russia and Ukraine account for almost a third of global wheat supplies, while Russia is also a key exporter of fertilizers and Ukraine is a major supplier of corn and sunflower oil.

Biden will meet Thursday in Washington with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg. Stoltenberg told reporters that he would soon convene a meeting in Brussels with Swedish, Finnish and Turkish officials to discuss Turkey’s opposition to Sweden and Finland joining NATO.


In addition to advanced rocket systems, called HIMARS, the new US package includes munitions, counterfire radars, aerial surveillance radars, additional Javelin anti-tank missiles and anti-armor weapons, officials said.

The decision to hand over the rocket systems to Ukraine was made after Washington received assurances from Kyiv that it would not use them to attack targets inside Russian territory, potentially widening the war.

Ukraine has been looking to multiple launch rocket systems like the M270 and M142 HIMARS to provide more firepower at longer ranges to hit Russian forces far behind the front line.

The Pentagon said that Washington would initially provide Ukraine with four HIMARS systems.

The new supplies come on top of billions of dollars worth of equipment, such as drones and anti-aircraft missiles. The Biden administration plans to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be armed with Hellfire missiles for use on the battlefield against Russia, three sources told Reuters. read more

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the supplies would not encourage Ukraine’s leaders to resume stalled peace talks.

Separately, US Cyber ​​Command Director Paul Nakasone confirmed that the United States had conducted “offensive, defensive and information” cyber operations to support Ukraine. He did not give specific details in comments to Sky News.

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Reuters bureau reports; Written by Rami Ayyub, Robert Birsel and Gareth Jones; Edited by Grant McCool, Stephen Coates, and Raju Gopalakrishnan

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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