Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

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June 12 (Reuters) – Bitter fighting raged in Sievierodonetsk but Ukraine remained in control of an industrial area and chemical plant in the eastern city where hundreds of civilians are sheltering from incessant Russian shelling, the region’s governor said.

FIGHTING

* President Volodomyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine’s military was gradually liberating territory further west in the Kherson region and had some successes in Zaporizhzhia, too.

* Russia is using its overmatch in force ratio and artillery to gradually seize territory in and around Ukraine’s Sieverodonetsk, Britain’s Defence Ministry said on Sunday.Russia has likely started preparing to deploy the third battalion from some combat formations in recent weeks, the ministry said in its latest intelligence update posted on Twitter.

* Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai conceded Russian forces had taken most of Sievierodonetsk but said the Azot plant was not being blockaded. He also said Russian shelling had ignited a big fire at the plant after an oil leak.

* In addition to saying 300-400 Ukrainian fighters were blockaded in the plant, separatist Rodion Miroshnik said Ukrainian forces may be holding several hundred civilians “hostage.”

* In neighbouring Donetsk province, Russian news agency RIA reported a huge cloud of smoke after an explosion in Avdiivka, a city which houses another chemical plant. Reuters was unable to immediately to confirm the report. 

* Southwest of Sievierodonetsk, Russian forces were firing mortars and artillery around a number of settlements, according to Ukraine’s general staff. But it said Ukrainian forces had repulsed Russian attempts to advance towards some communities.

DIPLOMACY

* Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will travel to Kyiv with French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi before the G7 summit at the end of June. 

* European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU executive’s opinion on Ukraine’s request to join the European Union would be ready in the coming week.

QUOTES

“No one can say whether and how many victims there have been in the last 24 hours in Sievierodonetsk, where intense fighting continues,” Gaidai said on the Telegram messaging app. “Everyone wants to evacuate now, probably, but so far there is no such possibility,”

Photo issued by Ukrainian MOD

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