Kiev receives a major boost as the European Union backs candidate status for Ukraine amid the ongoing Russian offensive, which is now in its 115th day.

Russia is sending a large number of reserve troops to Sievierodonetsk from other battle zones to try to gain full control of the frontline eastern city, the governor of Ukraine's Luhansk region said.
Russia is sending a large number of reserve troops to Sievierodonetsk from other battle zones to try to gain full control of the frontline eastern city, the governor of Ukraine's Luhansk region said. (AP)

Saturday, June 18, 2022

Prepare for the long haul, UK's PM tells Western allies

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson has warned allies to prepare for a long war in Ukraine, urging sustained support for Kiev or risk "the greatest victory for aggression" since World War II.

In an article for The Sunday Times, Johnson said Ukraine's foreign backers should hold their nerve to ensure it has "the strategic endurance to survive and eventually prevail".

The British premier offered President Volodymyr Zelenskyy a ramped up military training programme to help in its fight against Russian forces.

'We prepare for worst', says governor of Luhansk

The governor of the eastern Ukrainian region now seeing heavy fighting with Russia, Sergiy Gaiday, opened the pockets of his flack jacket on Saturday to show gun cartridges and a tourniquet.

Appointed by President Zelenskyy, the 46-year-old heads the Luhansk region, including the city of Sievierodonetsk, where Russians are fighting street battles, and Lysychansk, where bangs of artillery are near-constant.

"It's a tough situation, in the city (of Lysychansk) and in the region as a whole," he told AFP in an interview, as Russians "are just shelling our troop positions 24 hours a day." 

Russia sending large number of reserve troops to Sievierodonetsk

Russia is sending a large number of reserve troops to Sievierodonetsk from other battle zones to try to gain full control of the frontline eastern city, the governor of Ukraine's Luhansk region said.

"Today, tomorrow, or the day after tomorrow, they will throw in all the reserves they have ... because there are so many of them there already, they're at critical mass," Luhansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said on national television.

He said Russian forces already controlled most but not all of Sievierodonetsk. 

Russian missiles destroy fuel depot in east Ukraine town

Three Russian missiles destroyed a fuel storage depot in the eastern Ukrainian town of Novomoskovsk, the head of the regional administration said in an online message. 

Valentyn Reznichenko posted a picture of what he said was a large blaze at the depot. Novomoskovsk lies just to the northeast of Dnipro, the regional capital.

Reznichenko later said 11 people had been injured and one was in critical condition. 

Zelenskyy hails EU backing as battles rage in Donbass

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has hailed Brussels' support for Kiev's European Union bid as a historic achievement, as "fierce battles" raged again in Ukraine's eastern Donbass region.

The European Commission spearheaded a powerful show of solidarity on Friday by backing Ukraine for EU candidate status, an endorsement that could add it to the list of countries vying for membership as early as next week.

"Ukrainian institutions maintain resilience even in conditions of war. Ukrainian democratic habits have not lost their power even now," Zelenskyy said in a video address.

Russia putting world in danger of famine, warns EU

Russia is putting the world at risk of famine through its blockade of Ukraine's shipments of grains and restrictions on its own exports, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said.

"We are ready to work with the UN and our partners to prevent any unwanted impact on global food security," Borrell said in an article published on his official blog.

"Russia's conscious political choice is to 'weaponise'" grain exports and "use them as a tool for blackmail against anyone that opposes its aggression" in Ukraine, Borrell said. 

Governor: Fierce battles outside Ukraine's Sievierodonetsk

Ukrainian authorities say "fierce battles" with Russia have raged in villages outside the strategic eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, which Moscow's forces have been trying to seize control of for weeks. They also warn of "more destruction" in city's the Azot chemical plant, where hundreds of civilians are sheltering.

"Now the most fierce battles are near Sievierodonetsk. They (Russia) do not control the city entirely," the governor of the eastern Luhansk region, Sergiy Gaiday, said on Telegram.

"Our defenders are fighting Russians in all directions..," he said. He also said that Lysychansk — a Ukrainian-controlled city across a river from battered Sievierodonetsk — is being "heavily shelled".

Local authorities: Rockets hit district in Ukraine's Kryvyi Rih

Rockets have hit a southern district of Ukraine's central city of Kryvyi Rih, leading to at least two casualties, local authorities have said in posts on messaging app Telegram. 

There was no immediate reaction from Russia, which denies targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure.

Ukraine's president visits southern city of Mykolaiv

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has visited the southern city of Mykolaiv during a working trip to the region, his office has said in a statement, without specifying when the visit took place.

"The President inspected the building of the Mykolaiv regional state administration which was destroyed as a result of a missile strike by Russian forces," it said.

Ukrainians bid farewell to activist killed in fighting

Hundreds of Ukrainians have gathered at a central Kiev monastery for the funeral of a 24-year-old activist killed during fighting with Russian forces in eastern Ukraine.

Roman Ratushny, a well known figure of Ukraine's 2014 pro-EU revolution, was killed on June 9 near Izyum in the eastern Kharkiv region. Mourners attended his funeral at the golden-domed Saint Michael's monastery.

Four soldiers carried Ratushny's coffin as it was greeted by the crowd, which included many military men. Hundreds attended the solemn ceremony. A gathering will also take place in the city's main Maidan square, the centre of the 2014 pro-EU revolution that overthrew a pro-Moscow government.

UK: Ukraine can and should host next Eurovision Song Contest

Ukraine can and should host the 2023 Eurovision Song Contest, the British Prime Minister has said, after the organisers said they were in talks to hold it in Britain. 

While decades-long tradition dictates that the winner of the Eurovision contest gets to host it the following year, organisers say discussions would be held with the runner up, Britain, in view of the Ukraine situation.

"Of course I would love it to be in this country (Britain) but the fact is they (Ukraine) won and they deserve to have it and I believe they can have it and I believe that they should have it," Johnson told reporters on arrival back in Britain after a visit to Kiev.

Shelling traps '77 miners' in Donetsk region

Shelling has trapped 77 miners in a coal mine in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine after power to the mine was cut off, Russia's state RIA news agency has reported. 

"As a result of shelling by (Ukrainian forces), power to the Zasyadko mine in Donetsk was cut off, 77 miners remain underground," RIA said on Saturday, citing the Russian-backed separatist region's territorial defence.

The report was not immediately verified and there was no immediate reaction from Kiev.

Gazprom's gas exports to Europe via Ukraine drop 

Russian gas producer Gazprom has said its supply of gas to Europe through Ukraine via the Sudzha entry point was seen down to 41.4 million cubic metres (mcm) from 41.9 mcm a day before.

An application to supply gas via another major entry point, Sokhranovka, was rejected by Ukraine, Gazprom said.

UK: Russia renews bid to advance south of Ukraine’s Izyum

Russia has probably renewed its efforts to advance south of Ukraine's eastern city of Izyum in the last 48 hours, Britain's defence ministry has said.

Its goal is to penetrate deeper into the Donetsk region and envelope the pocket around the embattled city of Sievierodonetsk from the north, it said on Twitter on Saturday.

If trapped Ukrainian civilians do not take up an offer of leaving via a corridor, Russia is likely to claim justification in making less of a distinction between them and any Ukrainian military targets in the area, the ministry added.

Russia frees captive medic who filmed Mariupol’s horror

A celebrated Ukrainian medic has been freed by Russian forces, three months after she was taken captive on the streets of the city.

Yuliia Paievska is known in Ukraine as Taira, a nickname she chose in the World of Warcraft video game. Using a body camera, she recorded 256 gigabytes of her team’s efforts over two weeks to save the wounded, including both Russian and Ukrainian soldiers.

She transferred the clips to an Associated Press team, the last international journalists in the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, one of whom fled with it embedded in a tampon on March 15.

Russian TV airs two US vets' video captured in Ukraine

Russian state television showed the video of two US military veterans who went missing last week while fighting in Ukraine, confirming that the men were taken captive and raising fears about their fate. 

Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh, both from Alabama, were believed to be the first Americans captured by Russian forces since the beginning of the conflict on February 24.

RT, which broadcasts in English, said they were being held by Russian-backed separatist forces in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine. 

Russian imports may drop by 30 percent

Russian imports may drop by 30 percent this year but will not dwindle to zero, Tass news agency reported Alexei Kudrin, a former finance minister who now heads the state Audit Chamber, as saying.

It did not give more details. Last week a global banking industry lobby group predicted that Western sanctions would cut Russian imports by 28 percent in 2022.

For live updates from Friday (June 17), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies