Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right now

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June 20 (Reuters) – Russian forces captured territory along a frontline river in eastern Ukraine on Monday, and President Volodymyr Zelenskiy predicted Moscow would escalate attacks ahead of a summit of European leaders expected to welcome Kyiv’s bid to join the EU. 

FIGHTING

* Luhansk regional Governor Serhiy Gaidai told Ukrainian TV “all Russian claims that they control (Sievierodonetsk) are a lie. They control the main part of the town, but not the whole town”. Fighting made evacuations from the city impossible, he said.

* Britain’s Ministry of Defence said both Russia and Ukraine have continued heavy bombardment around Sievierodonestk “with little change to the front line”.

* Analysts at the Institute for the Study of War think tank in Washington wrote that “Russian forces will likely be able to seize Sievierodonetsk in the coming weeks, but at the cost of concentrating most of their available forces in this small area”.

* Russian-backed separatist forces in Ukraine said they had taken the village of Toshkivka beside the main southern road toward Sievierodonetsk. Regional Ukrainian governor Gaidai Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai acknowledged that the Russian attack on Toshkivka “had a degree of success”.

* In southern Ukraine, Western weaponry had helped Ukrainian forces advance 10 km (6 miles) towards Russian-occupied Melitopol, its mayor said in a video posted on Telegram from outside the city.

* In Ukraine’s second largest city Kharkiv, northwest of Luhansk, Russia’s defence ministry said its Iskander missiles had destroyed weaponry recently supplied by Western countries.

* The governor of Russia’s Bryansk region said the border village of Suzemka had been shelled from northern Ukraine, and one person was wounded and a power station was damaged.

Relatives, friends and other mourners attend the funeral ceremony of Ukrainian serviceman and activist Roman Ratushnyi, who was killed in fighting in the Kharkiv region, near St. Michaels Golden-Domed Monastery in Kyiv (Kiev), Ukraine, . Ratushnyi, a prominent Ukrainian political activist and serviceman, was killed in combat action in the Kharkiv region on 09 June. On 24 February Russian troops entered Ukrainian territory starting a conflict that has provoked destruction and a humanitarian crisis. EPA-EFE/OLEG PETRASYUK

DIPLOMACY

* NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said the war in Ukraine “could take years” and the West must continue its support, Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported. 

ECONOMIC IMPACT

* European Union foreign ministers will discuss ways to free millions of tonnes of grain stuck in Ukraine due to Russia’s Black Sea port blockade at a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.

* Germany announced its latest steps to boost gas storage levels to prepare for the next winter season, when it fears Russia, which has cut deliveries in recent days, could reduce or even completely halt supplies. 

* The Kremlin called Lithuania’s decision to ban the transit of some goods to Russia’s Baltic Sea enclave of Kaliningrad “unprecedented” and demanded an immediate repeal of the move. 

* Europe’s biggest Russian gas buyers are racing to find alternative fuel supplies and even looking at burning more coal to cope with reduced gas flows from Russia that threaten an energy crisis in winter if stores are not refilled.

QUOTE

* “I hope that the city will hold and, once it has the advantage in firepower, we will be able to liberate it without leaving it first.” – Sievierodonetsk Mayor Oleksander Stryuk.

(Compiled by Cynthia Osterman and Mark Heinrich)

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