Ukraine demands heavy weapons for Severodonetsk, where the “fate” of Donbass is at stake

On Thursday, Ukraine demanded long-range Western artillery, which it said would allow it to quickly retake Severodonetsk, a city in the east where, according to Kyiv, the “fate” of Donbass, Moscow’s strategic priority, is at stake.

According to President Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukrainian soldiers have been waging one of the “heaviest battles” in Severodonetsk since the beginning of the war to counter Russian forces that now control most of the city.

“We are defending our positions, inflicting heavy losses on the enemy. “This is a very difficult struggle,” the Ukrainian head of state said in a video released Wednesday night, adding that the “fate” of the huge Donbas coal basin was being “played out” in Severodonetsk.

The capture of this city would be a decisive step for Moscow to conquer the entire Donbass, which since 2014 has been partially held back by pro-Russian separatists reinforced by Russian troops since the February 24 invasion.

However, Ukraine can return Severodonetsk “in 2-3 days” as soon as it has “distant” western artillery, the governor of Luhansk, one of the two regions of Donbass, Serhiy Haidai, assured on Thursday.

Faced with pressure from troops in Moscow, Ukrainians are constantly demanding more powerful weapons from Western allies than short-range weapons.

Washington and London have announced the supply of multiple rocket launchers with a range of about 80 km, which is slightly longer than in Russia, but when Ukrainians will be able to start using them is unknown.

According to Governor Gaidai, on Thursday in the areas of Severodonetsk, which are still controlled by Ukrainians, continued street fighting and “constant” shelling by Russia.

The Russians are fighting there in a “very primitive” way, heavily bombarding with artillery before sending troops to try to break through Ukraine’s borders, he said, adding: “Our forces are repelling them, then artillery fire resumes, and it continues all the time.”

“No one will help me”

Last week, Severodonetsk seemed on the verge of falling under the Russian army, but Ukrainian troops fought back and managed to hold on, despite their numerical superiority. However, Russian troops are recovering.

According to a lawyer for the Ukrainian tycoon, whose company owns the facility, about 800 civilians are trapped at the city’s Azot chemical plant, where they have taken refuge.

The Ukrainian authorities did not confirm this information.

On Wednesday evening, Russian troops bombed Azot at least twice, in particular hitting the ammonium production center, the President of Ukraine said on Thursday.

Lysychansk, a town near Severodonetsk, is completely controlled by the Ukrainian army, but is also under heavy fire, Governor Gaidai said, accusing Russian forces of “deliberately” targeting hospitals and humanitarian aid distribution centers.

While many civilians evacuated Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, several thousand remained – elderly people, people caring for them, or those who could not afford to go somewhere.

“Every day there is bombing, every day something is burning,” said Yuri Krasnikov, who sits in the Lysychansk area with many damaged buildings and burned-out pavilions, and artillery is roaring nearby.

“I have no one to help,” complains the pensioner, who feels abandoned.

The Russians also continue to bomb Donetsk, another region of Donbass, “along the front line,” according to Kyiv, a total of 4 dead and 11 wounded over the past 24 hours.

In the city of Bakhmut on Wednesday, a school was completely destroyed by shelling, burnt books can be seen among the rubble, AFP journalists reported. No casualties were reported.

Moscow’s armed forces have made only slow progress, so Western analysts have argued that the Russian invasion, launched on February 24, has turned into a war of attrition, with limited achievements at the cost of mass destruction and heavy losses.

“Wave of hunger”

More than 100 days after Russia’s offensive, the effects of the global war continue to worsen, both financially and in food and energy, affecting 1.6 billion people, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said on Wednesday.

“For people around the world, war threatens to unleash an unprecedented wave of famine and unhappiness, leaving social and economic chaos,” Guterres warned.

“There is only one way to stop this storm: the Russian invasion of Ukraine must stop.”

Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports by Russia’s Black Sea Fleet, starting with Odessa, the country’s main port, paralyzes grain exports, including wheat, which it used to be the world’s third-largest exporter before the war.

The first to suffer were countries in Africa and the Middle East, which fear serious food crises.

Currently, about 20-25 million tons are blocked, the amount of which may triple to 75 million tons by the fall, according to the President of Ukraine.

Although Moscow blames the West for the deficit due to their sanctions, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara on Wednesday to discuss “safe maritime corridors” to resume grain transportation in the Black Sea. . .

Rapid inflation

At the request of the UN, Turkey offered its assistance in escorting sea convoys from Ukrainian ports, despite the presence of mines.

At a press conference, Mr. Lavrov assured that Russia is “ready to guarantee the safety of ships leaving Ukrainian ports. […] in cooperation with our Turkish colleagues. “

For Mr. Cavusoglu, Moscow’s request to lift sanctions that indirectly affect the export of its agricultural products is “legitimate” to promote Ukrainian exports.

Rising prices are also hitting hard in Russia, where inflation has risen sharply to a 20-year high. However, in May, it began to decline, according to official figures, still reaching 17.1% for the year.

The Institute of International Finance (IFF) forecasts a 15% contraction in the Russian economy this year and an additional 3% in 2023.

The war has forced about 6.5 million Ukrainians to flee their countries and caused thousands of deaths: at least 4,200 civilians, according to the latest UN figures, who estimate real numbers “much higher”, and thousands of soldiers, even if warring parties rarely report their losses.

To see in the video