US agrees to send advanced rockets to Ukraine

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  • Advanced US rockets will not be fired at Russia – official
  • Russia conducts nuclear exercises
  • Russian forces almost completely control Sievierodonetsk
  • Russia cuts more gas to Europe after EU oil ban deal

KYIV, June 1 (Reuters) – Russian troops fought to take full control of the eastern industrial city of Sievierodonetsk on Wednesday as the United States announced it would supply Ukraine advanced rockets to help him force Moscow to negotiate an end to the war.

President Joe Biden has said the United States will provide Ukraine with more advanced rocket systems and munitions so it can “hit key targets on the battlefield more precisely.”

“We acted quickly to send Ukraine a significant amount of weapons and ammunition so that it could fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table,” wrote Biden in a New York Times opinion piece. Read more

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A senior Biden administration official said the weapons provided would include the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which Ukraine’s armed forces chief said a month ago was “crucial” in countering attacks by Russian missiles.

Responding to concerns that such weapons could draw the United States into direct conflict with Russia, senior administration officials said Ukraine had assured the missiles would not be used to strike internally. of Russia.

“These systems will be used by the Ukrainians to repel Russian advances on Ukrainian territory, but they will not be used on targets in Russian territory,” the US official told reporters.

Shortly after the US decision was announced, the Russian Defense Ministry said Russian nuclear forces were holding exercises in Ivanovo province, northeast of Moscow, Interfax news agency reported. .

Some 1,000 military personnel were practicing intense maneuvers using more than 100 vehicles, including Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers, the ministry said. Read more

There was no mention of the American decision to supply new weapons in the Interfax report.

The latest US promise of weapons for Ukraine – on top of the billions of dollars in equipment already provided, including anti-aircraft missiles and drones – came as Russia pressed its assault to seize the eastern Donbass region, having abandoned its earlier push towards Kyiv from the north.

Russian troops have now taken control of most of the eastern industrial city of Sievierodonetsk in Luhansk, one of the two Donbass provinces, regional governor Serhiy Gaidai announced on Tuesday.

Almost all critical infrastructure in Sievierodonetsk was destroyed and 60% of residential properties damaged beyond repair, he said. The Russian bombardments had made it impossible to deliver aid or evacuate people.

A Russian victory in Sievierodonetsk and its twin city of Lysychansk across the Siverskyi Donets River would bring full control of Luhansk, one of two eastern provinces that Moscow claims on behalf of the separatists.

A pro-Moscow separatist leader said Russian proxies moved slower than expected to “maintain the city’s infrastructure” and exercise caution around its chemical plants.

“We can already say that a third of Sievierodonetsk is already under our control,” Russian news agency TASS said, quoting Leonid Pasechnik, the leader of the pro-Moscow Lugansk People’s Republic.

Gaidai warned residents of Sievierodonetsk not to leave bomb shelters due to what he said was a Russian airstrike on a nitric acid tank.

Police of the Luhansk People’s Republic said Ukrainian forces damaged it. Ukraine and Russian-backed separatists swapped accusations over a similar incident in April. Read more

Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council aid agency, which had long operated from Sievierodonetsk, said he was “horrified” by its destruction.

Up to 12,000 civilians remain caught in the crossfire without sufficient access to water, food, medicine or electricity, Egeland said.

“Near-constant shelling is forcing civilians into bomb shelters and basements, with only a few precious opportunities for those trying to escape,” he said.

WEAPONS PACK

Ukraine says weapons sent by the United States and other countries since the start of the invasion have helped repel Russian gains.

The high-mobility artillery rocket systems are part of a $700 million weapons package due to be unveiled by the United States on Wednesday.

The package includes munitions, counterfire radars, a number of air surveillance radars, additional Javelin anti-tank missiles, as well as anti-armour weapons, officials said.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has called for more weapons while lambasting the European Union, which on Monday agreed to cut Russian oil imports, for not earlier sanctioning energy from Russia.

The EU has said it will ban imports of Russian oil by sea. Officials said it would halt two-thirds of Russia’s oil exports to Europe initially, and 90% by the end of this year.

In response to the EU oil embargo, Russia has widened its gas cuts to Europe, driving up prices and intensifying its economic battle with Brussels. Read more

Putin launched his “special operation” in February to disarm and “denazify” Ukraine. Ukraine and its Western allies call it a baseless pretext for a war to take over territory.

Ukraine accuses Russia of large-scale war crimes, razing cities and killing and raping civilians. Russia denies the charges.

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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Stephen Coates; Editing Grant McCool and Lincoln Feast.

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.


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