Friday, February 3

Russia-Ukraine war latest: Sievierodonetsk sees ‘fierce street fighting’; Zelenskiy says peace talks ‘at level zero’ – live | Ukraine


Zelenskiy thanks Johnson for ‘complete understanding’

Volodymyr Zelenskiy also had kind words for the beleaguered Boris Johnson in his monday night addressthanking the UK for providing precisely the weapons Kyiv says it needs to fight Russia.

Johnson, the Ukraine president said, had shown “complete understanding” of his country’s needs, a reaction to the British government’s decision Monday – made in coordination with the US – to supply Ukraine with multiple-launch rocket systems that can strike targets up to 80km (50 miles) away.

Zelenskiy said:

I am grateful to Prime Minister Boris Johnson for the complete understanding of our demands and preparedness to provide Ukraine with exactly the weapons that it so needs to protect the lives of our people.”

On Monday, the UK announced it would send a handful of tracked M270 multiple launch rocket systems, which can hit targets up to 50 miles away, in the hope they can disrupt the concentrated Russian artillery that has been pounding cities in eastern Ukraine.

Ben Wallace, the UK defense secretary, argued the decision to ship the rocket launchers was justified because “as Russia’s tactics change, so must our support to Ukraine”. The move risks further provoking an already irritated Kremlin.

Sievierodonetsk sees ‘fierce street fighting’ Zelenskiy says

Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy says fighting has taken to the streets of the frontline eastern city of Sievierodonetsk while admitting that Russian forces have the numerical advantage.

In his latest national addressZelenskiy insisted that Ukraine’s forces had “every chance” of fighting back and are “standing strong”.

Our heroes hold their positions in Severodonetsk. Fierce street fights continue in the city.

Lysychansk, Slovyansk, Bakhmut, Sviatohirya, Avdiivka, Kurakhove and other directions of Russian strikes are the hottest points of confrontation today.

The Russian army is trying to use additional forces in the Donbas direction, but it is the 103rd day – and the Ukrainian Donbas stands. It stands firmly.”

Speaking at a separate briefing in Kyiv, Zelenskiy said Ukrainian forces defending Sievierodonetsk were “holding on” despite assaults by Russian troops, but that the situation on the eastern front was “difficult”.

The cities of Sievierodonetsk and its sister city of Lysychansk “are dead cities today”, he added.

Between 10,000 and 15,000 civilians are still in Sievierodonetsk, which has been shelled for weeks by Russian artillery, Zelenskiy said.

Zelenskiy said that peace talks with Russia stood at “level zero,” and in the meantime “the most threatening situation” has developed in the Zaporizhzhia region, parts of which have already been taken over by Russia.

A Ukrainian serviceman shelters in an underground makeshift bunker after a shelling at a field camp near the front line in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on 6 June. Photograph: Aris Messinis/AFP/Getty Images

Summary and welcome

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the war in Ukraine. I’m Samantha Lock and I will be bringing you all the latest news for the next few hours.

If you’re just waking up, or just dropping in to find the latest information, here’s a summary of the main points you might have missed:

  • Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, admitted that Russian forces have the numerical advantage in the battle for the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, but insisted that Ukraine’s forces had “every chance” of fighting back. “Our heroes do not give up positions in Sievierodonetsk. In the city, fierce street fighting continues,” he said in his latest national address, adding “the Ukrainian Donbas stands strong.” Sievierodonetsk and its sister city of Lysychansk “are dead cities today,” Zelenskiy said.
  • The Ukraine president also said he believed Russian troops intend to capture the city of Zaporizhzhia, a large industrial hub in the south-east of the country, which would allow its military to advance closer to central areas. “There are more of them, they are more powerful, but we have every chance to fight in this direction,” he said.
  • Russia has begun handing over bodies of Ukrainian fighters killed at the Azovstal steelworks, the fortress-like plant in the destroyed city of Mariupol where their last-ditch stand became a symbol of resistance against Moscow’s invasion. Dozens of bodies have been transferred to Kyiv, where DNA testing is under way to identify the remains, according to both a military leader and a spokesperson for the Azov battalion.
  • Russian officials in occupied Mariupol have shut down the southern port city for quarantine over a possible cholera outbreakaccording to Ukrainian authorities. Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said the Russian-occupied city is bracing itself for an epidemic as dead bodies and litter are piling up in the city.
  • Sexual violence in Ukraine remains prevalent and underreported as Russia’s invasion is “turning into a human trafficking crisis” according to the UN. “Women and children fleeing the conflict are being targeted for trafficking and exploitation” Pramila Patten, the United Nations special representative on sexual violence, told a UN security council on Monday. “Sexual violence is the most consistently and massively under-reported violation.”
  • The Ukrainian navy said it has pushed back a fleet of Russian warships more than 100km from its Black Sea coast. The group of Russian vessels were “forced to change tactics” after carrying out a naval blockade on Ukraine’s coast for weeks, the navy command of Ukraine’s armed forces said on Facebook. It has not been possible to independently verify this information.
  • Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said Moscow would respond to western deliveries of long-range weapons to Ukraine by pushing back Kyiv’s forces further from Russia’s borders. Lavrov’s remarks come after Britain’s defense secretary, Ben Wallace, said the UK will send long-range rocket artillery to Ukraine, in the hope they can disrupt the concentrated Russian artillery that has been pounding cities in eastern Ukraine.
  • Zelenskiy thanked the UK for providing precisely the weapons Kyiv says it needs to fight Russia. Boris Johnson, the Ukraine president said, had shown “complete understanding” of his country’s needs from him, a reaction to the British government’s decision Monday to supply Ukraine with multiple-launch rocket systems that can strike targets up to 80km (50 miles) away .
  • Ukraine needs 60 multiple rocket launchers – many more than the handful promised so far by the UK and US – to have a chance of defeating Russia, according to an aid to the country’s presidency. Oleksiy Arestovych, a military adviser to the president’s chief of staff, told the Guardian that while he believed the rocket launchers were “a gamechanger weapon”, not enough had been committed to turn the tide in the war.
  • The Kremlin has described a move by three eastern European countries to block Lavrov from flying to Serbia as a “hostile action”. Lavrov was due to hold talks in Belgrade on Monday with the Serbian president, Aleksandar Vučić, but was forced to cancel his visit after the countries around Serbia – Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro – closed their airspace to his aircraft.
  • Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, said there were credible reports that Russia was “pilfering” Ukraine’s grain exports to sell for its own profit. Blinken said the alleged theft was part of broader Russian actions to export Ukraine’s wheat crop and worsen a global food security crisis. “Now, Russia is hoarding its food exports as well,” he said. Zelenskiy said there could be as many as 75m tonnes of grain stuck in Ukraine by autumn.
  • European Council president Charles Michel accused Russia of using food supplies as “a stealth missile against developing countries” and blamed the Kremlin for the looming global food crisis. “This is driving up food prices, pushing people into poverty, and destabilizing entire regions. Russia is solely responsible for this food crisis,” Michel told a council meeting on Monday, prompting Moscow’s UN ambassador to walk out.
  • US authorities have charged the Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich with exporting two plans of US origin to Russia without a license. Prosecutors say both plans – a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner and a Gulfstream G650ER – were flown in March to Russia, in violation of US sanctions imposed on Moscow in response to its invasion of Ukraine.
  • The families of Russian national guard members who have died in Ukraine and Syria will receive a one-time payment of 5m rubles (£65,000 or $80,000), according to a Kremlin decree.
Elena, 81, leaves her building destroyed by a Russian military strike in the town of Druzhkivka, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Monday 6 June.
Elena, 81, leaves her building destroyed by a Russian military strike in the town of Druzhkivka, in Donetsk region, Ukraine, on Monday 6 June. Photograph: Gleb Garanich/Reuters


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