Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

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June 27 (Reuters) – Russian forces were battling on Monday to capture Lysychansk, the last major city still held by Ukrainian troops in the eastern province of Luhansk, after Moscow-backed separatists said they were advancing on multiple fronts. 

KYIV/POKROVSK, Ukraine, June 27 (Reuters) – Russian forces were fighting on Monday to capture Lysychansk, the last major city still held by Ukrainian troops in eastern Luhansk province, after Moscow-backed separatists said they were advancing on multiple fronts.

In a victory for Kremlin’s campaign, Lysychansk’s twin city of Sievierodonetsk, the scene of some of the bloodiest fighting, fell to pro-Russian forces on Saturday. Russian missiles also struck Kyiv for the first time in weeks on Sunday, attacks condemned by U.S. President Joe Biden as “barbarism”.

Tass news agency on Sunday quoted a separatist official as saying Moscow’s forces had entered Lysychansk from five directions and were isolating Ukrainian defenders. 

Reuters could not confirm the report. 

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said Russian forces were using artillery to try to cut off Lysychansk from the south but made no mention of separatists entering the city.

Russian assault aircraft struck near Lysychansk, the general staff added in its update on Monday.

“Lysychansk, it was a horror, the last week,” said Elena, an elderly woman from the city who was among dozens of evacuees who arrived in the Ukrainian-held town of Pokrovsk by bus from frontline areas. “I already told my husband if I die, please bury me behind the house,” she added.

The RIA agency quoted a separatist official as saying separatist forces had evacuated more than 250 people, including children, on Sunday from Sievierodonetsk’s Azot chemical plant.

The industrial area was the last part of Sievierodonetsk held by Ukrainian forces before they withdrew. 

Luhansk and neighbouring Donetsk make up Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region – the country’s industrial heartland.

‘PARTNERS NEED TO MOVE FASTER’

Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said missiles also struck the central city of Cherkasy on Sunday, hitting a strategic bridge linking western Ukraine and the eastern battlefields. 

“They are trying to limit the transfer of our reserves and Western weapons to the east,” he told Reuters.

Odesa regional administration spokesperson Serhiy Bratchuk said a missile strike in the Odesa region, in southern Ukraine, had destroyed residential buildings and caused a fire. Six people were injured including a child, he added. 

Reuters was not able to immediately confirm details of the report. Russia denies targeting civilians.

Ukraine needs a modern air defence system to deter Russian missiles, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in a Sunday evening address, after missiles earlier struck an apartment block and close to a kindergarten in the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. 

“Partners need to move faster if they are really partners, not observers. Delays with the weapons transfers to our state, any restrictions – this is actually an invitation for Russia to hit again and again,” he added.

The United States is likely to announce this week the purchase of an advanced medium to long range surface-to-air missile defence system for Ukraine, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. 

Biden called the Sunday Kyiv strikes acts of “barbarism”, as leaders from the Group of Seven nations met for a summit in Germany. 

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FIGHTING

* The TASS news agency quoted a separatist official on Sunday as saying that Moscow’s forces had entered Lysychansk from five directions and were isolating Ukrainian defenders. Reuters could not confirm the report. 

* The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said Russian forces were using artillery to try to cut off the city from the south but made no mention of separatists entering. Russian assault aircraft struck near the city, it added.

* The city is suffering “catastrophic” damage from shelling, Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, wrote on messaging app Telegram.

* On Saturday, the twin city of Sievierodonetsk fell to pro-Russian forces.

* Russian missiles struck a residential building in central Kyiv on Sunday, killing one and wounding six, officials said. The first attacks on the capital in weeks, they were condemned as “barbarism” by U.S. President Joe Biden. 

* Ukrainian presidential adviser Oleksiy Arestovych said missiles that struck the central city of Cherkasy on Sunday hit a strategic bridge linking the country’s west with eastern battlefields. 

* A missile strike in the Odesa region destroyed homes, causing a fire, and injuring six, including a child, said Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesperson for the regional administration.

ECONOMY AND DIPLOMACY

* “We have to stay together” against Russia, Biden told allies, as world leaders met at Sunday’s G7 summit in the Bavarian Alps. 

* Some Taiwan holders of Russian Eurobonds have not received interest due on May 27 after expiry of a grace period on Sunday, two sources said, potentially setting the stage for Moscow’s first major external sovereign default in more than a century.

* The United States is likely to announce this week the purchase of an advanced medium- to long-range surface-to-air missile defence system for Ukraine, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters.

QUOTES

* “At this stage of the war it’s spiritually difficult, emotionally difficult … we don’t have a sense of how long it will last, how many more blows, losses and efforts will be needed before we see victory is on the horizon,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in an evening speech.

(Compiled by Himani Sarkar; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)

Reuters

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