Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

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June 18 (Reuters) – As war rages in the east, Ukraine got a major boost on Friday when the EU recommended it become a candidate to join the bloc, a potentially dramatic geopolitical shift in the wake of Russia’s invasion. 

FIGHTING

* Ukraine’s military said fighting continues for the embattled eastern city of Sievierodonetsk.

* Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russian forces heavily shelled Sievierodonetsk’s twin city Lysychansk, and conducted air strikes on the village of Sirotin and the town of Borivske in Sievierodonetsk area.

* Russia’s state RIA news agency reported that Ukrainian shelling has trapped 77 miners in a coal mine in a separatist controlled part of the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine after power to the mine was cut off. Reuters could not immediately verify the report and there was no immediate reaction from Kyiv.

* Kharkiv region governor Oleh Synehubov said Russian rockets hit a suburb of the city of Kharkiv in the early hours, hitting a municipal building and starting a fire in a block of flats. He said there were no casualties.

* Reuters could not independently verify battlefield reports.

DIPLOMACY

* It is important Britain continues to show it is supporting Ukraine for the long haul, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, warning of a risk of “Ukraine fatigue” as the war drags on.

* Johnson offered military training for Ukrainian forces as he met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in Kyiv on Friday on his second visit of the war. 

* Russian President Vladimir Putin accused the West on Friday of colonial arrogance and trying to crush his country with “stupid” sanctions that amounted to an economic “blitzkrieg”. But he played down Ukraine’s possible EU entry. 

* A U.S. plan to sell four large, armable drones to Ukraine has been paused for fear its sophisticated surveillance equipment might fall into enemy hands, two sources told Reuters. 

ECONOMY

* Igor Sechin, the head of Russian oil major Rosneft said BP still remains its largest private shareholder despite having announced its departure in February after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine.BP could not immediately be reached for comment.

* Sechin said the world was facing a long-term oil deficit due to underinvestment.

* Russia’s 2022 coal production could fall 17% to 365.1 million tonnes and exports could decrease 30% to 156 million tonnes, the Russian news agency Interfax reported, citing the energy ministry.

QUOTES

* “I believe that Kyiv or any other safe Ukrainian city would be a fantastic place to have it,” British prime minister Boris Johnson said, referring to the issue of which country hosts next year’s Eurovision Song Contest. “It is a year away, it is going to be fine by the time the Eurovision Song Contest comes round and I hope the Ukrainians get it.” 

Members of the Bucha territorial defense forces rest after taking part in combat training near Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine. EPA-EFE/OLEG PETRASYUK

(Compiled by William Mallard and Frances Kerry)

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