Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

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June 10 (Reuters) – Ukrainian forces were holding their positions in intense street fighting and under day and night shelling in Sievierodonetsk, officials said, as Russia pushes to control the bombed-out city, key to its objective of controlling eastern Ukraine.

FIGHTING

* Russia is looking for weak points in Ukrainian defences near the Siverskyi Donets River in eastern Ukraine, Ukrainian Defence Ministry spokesperson Oleksandr Motuzyanyk said on Friday. He told national television that Russian forces had not abandoned attempts to launch storming operations in the area.

* Ukraine’s Security Council Secretary Oleksiy Danilov said on Thursday the situation in Sievierodonetsk was “extremely complicated” and Russian forces were focusing all of their might in the area.

“They don’t spare their people, they’re just sending men like cannon fodder … they are shelling our military day and night,” Danilov told Reuters in an interview.

* In a rare update from Sievierodonetsk, the commander of Ukraine’s Svoboda National Guard Battalion, Petro Kusyk, said Ukrainians were drawing the Russians into street fighting to neutralise their artillery advantage.

* Two Britons and a Moroccan captured while fighting for Ukraine will appeal their death sentences from a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR), one of Russia’s proxies in eastern Ukraine, their lawyer said. Britain said it was talking to Ukraine, not Russia, about them. 

* Ukraine’s southern city of Mariupol is at risk of a major cholera outbreak as Russia struggles to provide basic public services to the population in territories it has occupied, Britain’s defence ministry said on Friday. 

A Ukrainian servicemen rests close to their position in Novoluhanske, Donetsk area, Ukraine. EPA-EFE/STRINGER

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* Switzerland has adopted new EU sanctions against Belarus and Russia, also imposing financial and travel sanctions on 100 additional individuals and entities, including oligarch Aleksandra Melnichenko, the Federal Council said on Friday.

* Russia’s central bank said on Friday it would study the legality of plans by some banks to impose fees on foreign currency accounts, warning that lenders should not worsen conditions for existing clients. 

* Ukrainian grain exports are rising and nearing 2 million tonnes per month now, European Commissioner for Agriculture Janusz Wojciechowski said on Friday. 

* One of two breakaway eastern Ukrainian regions backed by Moscow on Thursday said it would soon start rail shipments to Russia of grain that its troops had “liberated”, Tass news agency reported. 

* The IMF said Canada and Germany have already pledged over $2 billion to a new fund to aid Ukraine and that it hoped other countries would contribute as much as possible. 

POLITICS

* NATO’s deputy chief said on Friday he saw no immediate military threat to Sweden and Finland from Russia and is confident the aspiring NATO members will join the alliance despite Turkey’s objections. 

* Russian President Vladimir Putin paid tribute on Thursday to Tsar Peter the Great on the 350th anniversary of his birth, drawing a parallel between what he portrayed as their twin historic quests to win back Russian lands. 

(Compiled by Kim Coghill and Philippa Fletcher)

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