Russian forces put pressure on Ukrainian guards in the main eastern city

  • Russian forces have stepped up attacks on the main eastern city
  • The Ukrainians may retreat but will not give up the city – the governor
  • Ukraine is about to publish a ‘book of convicts’ describing war crimes
  • Turkey, Russia urge UN to allow Ukrainian grain exports

Kyiv / Slovenesk, Ukraine, June 8 (Reuters) – Ukrainian troops stationed in the ruins of Sivrodonetsk were hit hard again on Wednesday by Russian forces, who consider it important to control the Luhansk area around the capture of the industrial city.

In southern Ukraine, another major battleground in the war, officials say Russian attacks on agricultural sites, including warehouses, are exacerbating the global food crisis, which has raised concerns about famine in some developing countries.

Turkey hosts Russian foreign minister to discuss UN plan to open a corridor in the Black Sea for Ukrainian grain exports. Russia’s Sergei Lavrov has said that Ukraine must first demine its ports – Kiev fears that the move could make it more vulnerable to attacks from the sea.

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Russian forces have been focusing for weeks on the capture of Siverodonetsk, home to about 106,000 people, before Moscow invaded Ukraine on February 24, and now it is a disaster. The governor of the Luhansk region said that Ukrainian forces would not surrender to the city.

“The fighting is intensifying. Even if our army has to retreat to strong positions, no one is going to leave the city. This does not mean that someone is leaving the city – no one will leave anything. But (they) may be forced to retreat,” Sergei Guido told Ukrainian television.

He said Russian forces would intensify shelling and bombardment of both Siverodonetsk and its small twin city, Lisyansk, on the west bank of the Tsivarsky Donetsk River.

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Luhansk and the neighboring Donetsk province are the Donbass claimed by Moscow for its separatist proxies that have occupied the eastern part of the region since 2014.

Russian forces have 10 times more equipment than Ukrainian troops in some areas of Siverodonetsk, Ukraine’s defense ministry spokesman Oleksandr Motsusyanik told a conference.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the situation on the ground in Siverodonetsk.

Moscow claims to be engaged in a “special military operation” to disarm and “reduce” its neighbors. Ukraine and its allies call it an unsubstantiated excuse for a war that has massacred thousands, razed cities and forced millions to flee.

‘God Saved Me’

Russia has turned its attention to the Donbass region since the defeat of its forces on the outskirts of Kiev in March.

In the last 24 hours, two people were killed and two wounded in the Luhansk region, five civilians were injured in the Donetsk region, four were killed and 11 were injured in the Kharkiv region, according to the office of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zhelensky.

In the Slovenes, one of Ukraine’s major Donbass cities, about 85 km (53 miles) west of Siverodonets, women with small children lined up to collect aid, while other residents carried buckets of water throughout the city.

Most of the residents fled, but officials say about 24,000 people remain in the city in the wake of an expected offensive that Russian forces will reunite in the north.

Albina Petrovna, 85, described the moment her building was trapped in an attack, which shattered her windows and destroyed her balcony.

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“The broken glass fell on me, but God saved me, I have scratches everywhere …” she said.

In Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second largest city, residents were clearing debris from a shelling attack the previous day. Ukraine pushed back Russian forces from the city’s suburbs last month, but Russia still attacks from time to time.

CCTV footage showed the missile hit a shopping mall that included a supermarket late Tuesday, scattering debris and supplies. Scenes shot from the drone showed a gap in the roof of the large building.

“The support pillars were completely destroyed,” said Svitlana Tulina, manager of the supermarket, who said no one was injured in the attack.

The Book of Executioners

Zhelensky said Ukraine would next week publish a “book of convicts” describing war crimes. read more

Ukraine has launched more than 16,000 investigations into war crimes, filed eight court cases and identified 104 suspects, its public prosecutor said Wednesday. read more

Russia has refused to target civilians in Ukraine and has denied allegations that its forces committed war crimes.

Russian news agencies have reported that the administration, established by Russia in the occupied territory of Zaporizhia in southern Ukraine, plans to hold a referendum on joining Russia later this year. Russian-based authorities in the western province of Kherson have also announced similar plans.

Ukraine and its Western allies consider the planned referendum in the occupied territories to be illegal and prove that Russia’s real motive is regional aggression. read more

This conflict is having a huge impact on the world economy. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain exporters, and Western nations accuse Russia of creating the risk of creating a global famine by closing Ukraine’s Black Sea ports. Moscow denies the allegation and says Western sanctions are to blame for the food shortage.

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Ukraine’s southern military command noted that attacks on farmland and other agricultural sites in the Mykolayiv region were particularly damaging. read more

Russia’s Lavrov, after meeting with his Turkish envoy Mevlut Cavusoglu, said Moscow was ready to guarantee the safety of ships carrying grain from Ukrainian ports along with Turkey, but that Ukraine must first clear landmines.

Ukraine says it needs mines to protect its ports from Russian attack. President Vladimir Putin has personally promised that Lavrov will not use the issue of grain exports to benefit Russia’s military operations. read more

Ukraine has rejected Russia’s promises as “empty words.”

Turkey, a NATO member with good relations with both Russia and Ukraine, has been trying to broker peace talks. Cavusoglu said further talks were needed on ways to facilitate Ukrainian grain exports across the Black Sea.

The Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said the food crisis was caused by sanctions on Russia affecting its own grain exports.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu this week said he was ready to resume grain exports to the Russian-occupied Ukrainian ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol. Ukraine claims that such exports will be illegally plundered from the territory occupied by Moscow.

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Report by Reuters; Written by Himani Sarkar and Gareth Jones; Editing by Michael Perry and Peter Groff

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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