Men’s games “have more appeal,” says Mauresmo

Ukrainian forces on Wednesday appeared on the verge of losing Severodonetsk, a strategic city in Donbass witnessing the advance of the Russian army in the east of the country, where Ukrainians are awaiting the arrival of “more advanced” missile systems announced by Washington.

After 98 days of war, “Russian forces now control 70 percent of Severodonetsk,” Serguii Gaidai, governor of that region of the Donbass Basin, said on his Telegram channel on Wednesday.

Adding that they are “not fully occupying” this industrial city, he seemed to be preparing for it: “If the Russians get Severodonetsk under their control in two or three days, they will station artillery and mortars there and bombard Lysychansk more intensively “, the neighboring one City on the other side of the Donets River, in his opinion, is more difficult to take because “located on high ground”.

Since the capture of the city of Lugansk itself in 2014 by pro-Russian separatists backed by Moscow, Severodonetsk has become the administrative capital of the Lugansk region for Ukrainian authorities.

The situation in Severodonetsk is “very complicated” with “fighting on the streets,” said Defense Ministry spokesman Oleksander Motouzianyk.

According to him, Russian forces are trying to “take complete control of Severodonetsk and encircle Lysychansk” and reach the administrative border separating Lugansk and Donetsk, the two regions that make up the Donbass.

Annexations in July?

The Donetsk region is also under Russian fire.

AFP journalists saw buildings destroyed by rockets in Sloviansk – about 80 km west of Severodonetsk – on Tuesday, killing three people and injuring six others. And on Wednesday, a rocket attack with cluster munitions in Soledar, which lies between Sloviansk and Severodonetsk, left at least one dead and two wounded, AFP noted.

For their part, in the suburbs of the rebel stronghold of Donetsk, pro-Russian separatists on Wednesday claimed to have won a small tactical victory by cutting off one of the two supply routes to the nearby Ukrainian-armed forces-held town of Avdiivka.

When the conflict in Ukraine began in 2014, Avdiivka was captured by separatists and then recaptured by Kiev forces. It remained the scene of sporadic clashes until the Russian offensive erupted on February 24.

Moscow has set itself the goal of bringing the entire Donbass under its control.

In southern Ukraine, in the Cherson region, which is largely occupied by Russians, Kyiv claims to have launched a counteroffensive and achieved “partial successes”.

Ukrainians are concerned about a possible annexation of this region, like others that have been militarily seized by Russian forces.

One of Russia’s chief negotiators in the Ukraine conflict, Leonid Sloutski, told Ria Novosti agency on Wednesday that all of these “liberated” territories could organize referendums on Russia’s annexation as early as July.

“Fuel in the Fire”

In this regard, the Ukrainian Armed Forces are eagerly awaiting the delivery of more powerful rocket launcher systems promised by the United States.

US President Joe Biden announced in the New York Times on Tuesday that his country would “provide Ukrainians with more advanced missile systems and ammunition that will allow them to more accurately hit key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine.”

According to a senior White House official, these are Himar systems (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System), multiple rocket launchers mounted on light armored vehicles with a range of about 80 kilometers. However, no delivery date was given.

This equipment is part of a new broader component of US military assistance to Ukraine totaling $700 million, details of which are due to be announced on Wednesday.

Some specialists believe that the Himars could change the balance of military power on the ground.

Nevertheless, to avoid the United States being viewed as a co-belligerent, US President Joe Biden insisted that he “does not encourage” Ukraine and “does not give Ukraine the means to attack on Russian territory”.

On Wednesday, the head of American diplomacy, Antony Blinken, assured that Ukraine had given the United States “assurances” that it would not use these new missile systems to attack targets in Russia.

Nevertheless, the Kremlin accused Washington of “pouring oil on the fire” and preventing the Ukrainians from taking part in the peace talks, which have been stalled for weeks.

Unlock Ukrainian ports

The West is also trying to open Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, particularly the major port of Odessa (south), the main port of entry for the country’s agricultural production, in a bid to boost grain exports, of which Ukraine is one of the largest world producers.

At least 20 million tons of Ukrainian grain cannot currently be exported due to a Russian blockade, raising the risk of a global food crisis.

According to Ankara, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is due to discuss establishing “safe corridors” for grain transportation during a visit to Turkey on June 8.

The Europeans want the opening of these corridors to be placed under the aegis of the United Nations in order to offer Ukraine “legitimate security guarantees”, which should proceed with demining Odessa, the first Ukrainian port.

These discussions about possible corridors have helped bring down wheat and corn prices in recent days, which have risen sharply since the beginning of the conflict.

Mr Lavrov nonetheless on Tuesday denied any responsibility for the blocking of ports to westerners, which he says stemmed from sanctions against Moscow, which European Union leaders decided on Monday to tighten by imposing an embargo on Russian oil .

Moscow is taking steps to “minimize” the impact of this embargo, which will be phased in, the Kremlin assured on Wednesday, also amid a fall in its gas exports.

This article was published automatically. Sources: ats/afp

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