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‘Everything is on fire’: Ukraine region weathers bombardment
21 June 2022, 16:44
The war has caused alarm over food supplies from Ukraine to the rest of the world and gas supplies from Russia.
Russian attacks have laid down a curtain of fire across areas of eastern Ukraine where pockets of resistance are denying Moscow full military control of the region, almost four months after the Kremlin unleashed its invasion.
“Today everything that can burn is on fire,” Serhiy Haidai, the governor of Ukraine’s eastern Luhansk region, told the Associated Press (AP).
Russia’s war has caused alarm over food supplies from Ukraine to the rest of the world and gas supplies from Russia, as well as raising questions about security in western Europe.
The Russian military currently controls about 95% of the Luhansk region.
But Moscow has struggled for weeks to overrun it completely, despite deploying additional troops and possessing a massive advantage in military assets.
In the city of Sievierodonetsk, the hot spot of the fighting, Ukrainian defenders held on to the Azot chemical plant in the industrial outskirts.
About 500 civilians are sheltering at the plant, and Mr Haidai said the Russian forces are turning the area “into ruins”.
“It is a sheer catastrophe,” Mr Haidai told the AP in written comments about the plant.
“Our positions are being fired at from howitzers, multiple rocket launchers, large-calibre artillery, missile strikes.”
The defence of the chemical plant recalled the besieged Azovstal steel mill in the brutalised city of Mariupol, where Ukrainian troops were pinned down for weeks.
The neighbouring Lysychansk, the only city in the Luhansk region that is still fully under Ukrainian control, is also the target of multiple air strikes.
Separately, US attorney general Merrick Garland met for about an hour at a Ukrainian-Polish border post with Ukrainian prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova.
They discussed how the US can help identify, apprehend and prosecute anyone involved in war crimes and other atrocities in Ukraine.
The Ukraine president’s office said on Tuesday that at least six civilians had been killed over the previous 24 hours, and 16 others were wounded.
According to its daily update, Russian forces over the day shelled the northern Chernihiv region, and intensified their shelling of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city.
Explosions also occurred on Tuesday morning in the southern city of Mykolaiv.
Air strikes on Sievierodonetsk and nearby Lysychansk have ruined more than 10 residential buildings and a police station.
In the city of Avdiivka in the Donetsk region, a school burned down as a result of the shelling, the president’s office said.
International support for Ukraine’s plight was demonstrated once more when a Nobel Peace Prize medal auctioned off by Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov sold on Monday night for 103.5 million dollars (£84.4 million), shattering the old record for a Nobel.
The auction aimed to raise money for Ukrainian child refugees.
Geopolitical tensions stemming from Russia’s invasion returned to Lithuania.
Due to European Union sanctions on Moscow, the Baltic country earlier this month banned rail traffic from crossing its territory from Russia to the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.
Kaliningrad, with a population of around 430,000 people, is wedged between Lithuania and Poland, both EU countries, and is isolated from the rest of Russia.
Nikolai Patrushev, the powerful secretary of the Kremlin’s Security Council and a hardliner, visited Kaliningrad on Tuesday and vowed to respond to the ban.
“The relevant measures are being drawn up in an interagency format and will be adopted shortly,” Mr Patrushev said, without elaborating.
He added: “Their consequences will have a significant negative impact on the population of Lithuania.”
Meanwhile, Russian authorities blocked the website of British newspaper The Telegraph over an article it published, the internet rights group Roskomsvoboda reported on Tuesday.
The group said in an online statement that Russia’s media and internet regulator, Roskomnadzor, blocked Russian access to a story Moscow described as “fake news”.
The move made the entire Telegraph website inaccessible for some Russians.
The Telegraph story alleged that Russian forces had prepared a mobile crematorium for use in its war with Ukraine, possibly to hide its military casualties.
In other developments on Tuesday:
– Serhiy Bolvinov, head of the investigative department of the Kharkiv regional police, said five people were killed and 11 others were injured in Russian shelling of the country’s second-largest city on Tuesday.
– Britain’s Ministry of Defence said in an intelligence report that Ukraine’s coastal defences have “largely neutralised” Russia’s ability to project maritime force in the north-western Black Sea. “This has undermined the viability of Russia’s original operational design for the invasion, which involved holding the Odesa region at risk from the sea,” the report said.