Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

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June 15 (Reuters) – Ukraine ignored a Russian ultimatum to surrender the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk on Wednesday, fighting on as NATO defence ministers gathered in Brussels to discuss sending more heavy weapons to replenish Kyiv’s dwindling stocks. 

FIGHTING

* Ukrainian forces are suffering painful losses against Russian troops in both the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk and the Kharkiv region, President Zelenskiy said.

* The governor of the Luhansk region said about 500 civilians remain on the grounds of the Azot plant, including 40 children. 

* British military intelligence said Russian forces had likely taken fixed positions around Azot, while Ukrainian fighters could survive in underground parts of the plant.

* Russian President Vladimir Putin likely still wants to capture much if not all of Ukraine but has had to narrow his tactical objectives in war, the U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy said. 

* Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow rejected the ideology of limited nuclear war, and any accusations to the contrary by the West were groundless, according to the RIA news agency. 

A picture taken during a visit to Mariupol organized by the Russian military shows a Russian serviceman stands in front of the re-painted in colours of Russian National flag sign ‘Mariupol’ at the entrance to the city of Mariupol, Donetsk region, Ukraine. EPA-EFE/SERGEI ILNITSKY

DIPLOMACY

* Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke by phone with Vladimir Putin, telling his his Russian counterpart all parties should promote proper resolution of the crisis, Chinese state media reported. 

ECONOMY

* Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will create a global wheat shortage for at least three seasons by keeping much of the Ukrainian crop from markets, pushing prices to record levels, Kyiv’s agriculture minister said. 

* U.S. President Biden said temporary silos would be built along the border with Ukraine, including in Poland, in a bid to help export more grain.

* The United States will allow certain energy-related transactions with Sberbank SBER.MM, VTB Bank VTBR.MM, Alfa-Bank and several other Russian entities to continue through Dec. 5, the U.S. Department of Treasury said.

* Furniture giant IKEA said on Wednesday it would further scale its operations in Russia 

NATO

* Dozens of defense ministers from NATO and other parts of the world are expected to discuss weapon deliveries to Ukraine on Wednesday in Brussels, U.S. officials said, as Kyiv calls for a significant increase in arms to help hold off Russian troops in eastern Ukraine. 

* A NATO summit in Madrid later this month is expected to agree an assistance package for Ukraine that will help the country with the move from old Soviet-era weaponry to NATO standard gear, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said.

(Compiled by Simon Cameron-Moore and Frank Jack Daniel)

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