Russian forces have seized half of Sievierodonetsk, the eastern Ukrainian city that is key to Moscow’s efforts to complete the capture of the industrial Donbass region, the mayor said on Tuesday. The Russian advance comes as the United States has said it will supply Ukraine with advanced rocketry to help it force Moscow to negotiate an end to the war. Follow the FRANCE 24 liveblog for all the latest news. All times are in Paris time (GMT+2).
10:36 a.m.: Governor of Lugansk region says Russia controls 70% of Sievierodonetsk
Russian forces now control about 70% of Sievierodonetsk, a strategically important city in eastern Ukraine, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Wednesday.
“Some Ukrainian troops have retreated to more advantageous and prepared positions,” Gaidai said on the Telegram messaging app.
10:34 am: Germany will send IRIS-T air defense system to Ukraine, Scholz says
Germany will supply Ukraine with the IRIS-T medium-range surface-to-air defense system, Chancellor Olaf Scholz says, following calls from Kyiv as well as German opposition parties to step up deliveries of heavy weapons in the country.
“We have been delivering continuously since the beginning of the war,” Scholz said Wednesday, pointing to more than 15 million rounds, 100,000 hand grenades and more than 5,000 anti-tank mines sent to Ukraine since Russia invaded the country. country on February 24. .
10:03 a.m .: Wheat cannot be a “weapon of war”, says the pope to ask for the lifting of the Ukrainian blockade
Pope Francis on Wednesday called on authorities to lift the block on wheat exports from Ukraine, saying the grain cannot be used as a “weapon of war”.
Speaking at his general audience in front of thousands in St. Peter’s Square, he said the blockade should be lifted because several million people depend on Ukrainian wheat, especially in the world’s poorest countries.
8:06 a.m .: Russian forces “inexorably” take more of Severodonetsk
“Luhansk region governor Serhiy Haidai just posted on his Telegram that Russian forces now control most of Severodonetsk – more than half, I guess that means – but of course it’s very difficult to know exactly how you calculate these things: are we talking in square meters or in the most densely populated areas of the city?” said FRANCE 24’s Gulliver Cragg, reporting from Kyiv.
“And the situation is fluid; there are Russian offensives, Ukrainian counter-offensives that push them back. Then the Russians push again. and more from this city of Severodonetsk.”
04:02: Denmark to hold referendum on scrapping EU defense opt-out
Danish voters will decide on Wednesday whether to join the European Union’s defense policy, potentially becoming the bloc’s latest hurdle to register as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forces countries to drastically reassess their security .
Denmark is the only member of the 27-nation bloc not to be part of the Common Security and Defense Policy, having won exemptions from it and the euro in a 1993 referendum on the Treaty of Maastricht, which laid the foundations of the modern EU.
If the Danes vote to abolish the opt-out, as polls suggest, it would mark another significant shift in Europe’s politics after Russia launched the invasion in February.
2:17 am: US sends Himars multiple rocket system to Ukrainian army: official
The United States is sending advanced Himars multiple rocket systems to Ukraine, a U.S. official said on Tuesday, ending days of speculation over the latest military aid upgrade to Kyiv in its fight against Russia.
The Himars use precision-guided munitions, the official, who requested anonymity, told reporters. The range is about 50 miles (80 kilometers), Washington having decided not to send ammunition with a much longer range.
“These systems will be used by the Ukrainians to repel Russian advances on Ukrainian territory but they will not be used against Russia,” the official said.
12:10 am: Ukraine’s Zelensky slams ‘crazy’ Russia over chemical plant attack
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow of “madness” on Tuesday after Russian troops struck a chemical plant in a bid to complete the capture of a key eastern city.
The battle for control of Severodonetsk has intensified this week, with heavy losses on both sides, as EU leaders haggle over a Russian gas ban to punish the Kremlin for its three-month-old invasion of its pro-Western neighbor.
One of the industrial centers on the road to Russia’s conquest of the eastern Lugansk region, Severodonetsk has become the target of massive Russian firepower since the failed attempt to occupy Kyiv.
The Russians now control most of the destroyed city, regional authorities said on Tuesday, adding that enemy forces had hit a tank of nitric acid at a chemical plant and warning people to stay inside.
“Given the presence of large-scale chemical production in Severodonetsk, Russian military strikes there, including indiscriminate aerial bombardments, are just crazy,” Zelensky said in a video message.
“But on the 97th day of such a war, it is no longer surprising that for the Russian military, for the Russian commanders, for the Russian soldiers, any madness is absolutely acceptable.”
11:05 p.m .: Exclusive: Embarked with the Karpatska Sich Battalion in the Donbass
The Ukrainian military is determined to slow Russia’s steady advance into the eastern Donbass region as Moscow focuses its efforts on encircling the area. Reporting from the northwest Donbass frontline, a FRANCE 24 team followed the Karpatska Sich Battalion as it fights to halt the Russian advance.
10:05 p.m.: Communications outage in Russian-occupied Kherson: Ukraine
Ukrainian officials report a “cut off of all communications” in the Russian-occupied southern region of Kherson.
In a statement, Ukraine’s State Service for Special Communication and Information Protection said there was an unspecified intrusion “by the occupation regime” and that the equipment was turned off and cables disconnected.
“Residents of the region are currently deprived of Ukrainian mobile communication and Internet access, and have no way to make national and international phone calls using landline telephones,” the agency said. .
9:48 p.m .: Ukrainian forces advance in the southern region: Zelensky
Ukrainian forces have had some success near the southern city of Kherson and are advancing in parts of the Kharkiv region east of Kyiv, President Volodymyr Zelensky said.
“Our defenders show the greatest courage and remain in control of the situation at the front despite the fact that the Russian army has a significant advantage in terms of equipment and manpower,” he said in a statement. late night speech.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)