Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

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June 9 (Reuters) – Ukrainian troops claimed on Thursday to have pushed forward in intense street fighting in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk but said their only hope of turning the tide was more artillery to offset Russia’s massive firepower. 

FIGHTING

* The Ukrainian Defence Ministry said its forces had won back some territory from Russian forces in a counter-offensive in the Kherson area of southern Ukraine. Reuters was unable to independently verify the situation on the ground.

* Ukrainian forces still hold the industrial zone and adjacent areas in Sievierodonetsk and the situation is “difficult but manageable”, but evacuating 10,000 remaining civilians is now impossible, Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said.

* Russian forces are destroying “everything that can be used for defence” in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said. Russia was shelling areas of the city still controlled by Ukraine but Ukrainian forces will be able to “clean up” in the city once they received long-range artillery.

* Two Britons and a Moroccan who were captured while fighting for Ukraine could face the death penalty after pleading guilty in a court of one of Russia’s proxies in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s RIA news agency reported. 

* Western-supplied artillery systems are already making a difference on the ground for Ukraine and it is “just a question of time” before its forces win back significant ground in the south, the governor of the Mykolaiv region said. 

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* The Kremlin said no agreement had been reached with Turkey on exporting Ukrainian grain shipments across the Black Sea. Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters that work was continuing. 

* Millions of people could starve because of Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, adding that the world was on the brink of a “terrible food crisis” with Ukraine unable to export large amounts of wheat, corn and oil. Russia has blamed the crisis on Ukrainian mines laid at sea and international sanctions against Moscow. 

HUMAN IMPACT

* Tourists once flocked to the Ukrainian resort of Odesa to lie on its Black Sea beaches, but the white sands are now covered in mines because of the war with Russia and police officers patrol the boardwalks. 

POLITICS

* Russia’s proxies in occupied parts of Zaporizhzhia province announced plans to stage a referendum on joining Russia at an unspecified date later this year. 

QUOTES

* “This is a very brutal battle, very tough, perhaps one of the most difficult throughout this war. Sievierodonetsk remains the epicentre of the encounter in Donbas…Largely, that is where the fate of our Donbas is being decided now.” -Zelenskiy

(Compiled by Kim Coghill and Mark Heinrich)

Photo courtesy Ukrainian MOD

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