Latest news on Russia and the war in Ukraine

Fighters entrenched in the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk are an obstacle for Russia

After more than a month of heavy fighting, Russian forces now control the majority of Severodonetsk, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in its latest intelligence update on Wednesday.

The ministry noted that Russia’s urban warfare tactics, which rely on heavy use of artillery, have generated significant collateral damage throughout the city, reminiscent of Mariupol, the southern port city also severely attacked by the Russia at the start of the invasion.

Smoke rises after a military strike on a complex of the Sievierodonetsk Azot chemical plant, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, in the town of Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine on June 10, 2022.

Oleksandre Ratushniak | Reuters

The ministry noted that elements of the Ukrainian armed forces, as well as several hundred civilians, are sheltering in underground shelters of the chemical plant of Azot, in the industrial zone of the city.

“Russian forces will likely be pinned down in and around Azot while Ukrainian fighters will be able to survive underground. This will likely temporarily prevent Russia from reassigning these units to missions elsewhere,” he said.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Tuesday it would open a “humanitarian corridor” to allow the evacuation of the Azot plant and called on Ukrainian fighters entrenched there to lay down their arms. A pro-Russian separatist military official has told fighters who remained in Severodonetsk – which is now isolated after the destruction of three bridges leading to the city – that they must “surrender or die”.

The UK added that it is highly unlikely that Russia anticipated such vigorous opposition or such a slow attritional conflict when it initially planned the invasion.

—Holly Ellyatt

Ukraine says ‘quibble’ over its need for weapons ‘cannot be justified’

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy attends a joint statement with European Commission President Ursula, as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, in Kyiv, Ukraine, June 11, 2022.

Valentin Ogirenko | Reuters

Ukraine’s patience with its lack of long-range weapons appears to be running out, with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pleading again this week for more such weapons.

In his late-night address on Tuesday, Zelenskyy said that while Ukrainian air defenses managed to “clip the wings” of some Russian missiles targeting the country, others caused more death and destruction in the Lviv and Ternopil regions. , in western Ukraine.

“And we continue to tell our partners that Ukraine needs modern anti-missile weapons,” Zelenskyy said.

“Our country does not have enough [these] again, but it is in our country and at the present time that Europe needs such weapons the most. Procrastination in its provision cannot be justified,” Zelenskyy said, addressing his nation at the end of the 111th day of the war.

Ukrainian forces are battling a severe attack by Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, with 80% of the key city of Severodonetsk now under occupier control. Zelenskyy has repeatedly called on Ukraine to receive more long-range weapons from its Western allies, as well as tanks, drones and armored vehicles.

Holly Ellyatt

Russia controls around 80% of the disputed Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk

Smoke rises during shelling in the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk on May 21, 2022. Russian troops control around 80 percent of Severodonetsk, the last city now partially held by Ukraine in Luhansk, and destroyed the three bridges that come out of it, the Associated Press reported, citing an official.

Aris Messinis | AFP | Getty Images

Russian troops control about 80% of Severodonetsk and have destroyed the three bridges leading to the last city of Luhansk which is partially held by Ukraine, according to the Associated Press which quoted the governor of Luhansk.

Ukrainian forces have been pushed back to the industrial outskirts of the city due to the “scorched earth method and heavy artillery the Russians are using”, the AP said, citing Governor Serhiy Haidai.

Haidai said a mass evacuation of civilians was now “simply not possible” due to ongoing shelling and fighting.

However, he added that there was still a possibility of driving civilians out of the town as Russian soldiers have not yet completely blocked the town.

“There is still a possibility of evacuation of the wounded, communication with the Ukrainian army and local residents,” he told the AP.

Of a pre-war population of 100,000, only 12,000 people remain in Severodonetsk, the news agency reported.

More than 500 civilians took refuge in the Azot chemical plant, which was attacked by
Russian troops, Haidai said.

The Russian Ministry of Defense announced that it would open a “humanitarian corridor” on Wednesday to allow Ukrainian civilians who had taken refuge in the factory to leave the complex.

—Chelsea Ong

Russia’s ability to fund war and defense industry still strong, sanctions expert says

Local residents look at the Russian military tank destroyed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, in the village of Sloboda, Chernihiv region, Ukraine on May 08, 2022 (Photo by Maxym Marusenko/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Nurphoto | Nurphoto | Getty Images

Coordinated global sanctions may not immediately affect the Kremlin’s ability to fund its defense industrial base or its ongoing war in Ukraine, said Russian economics expert Richard Connolly.

“The ability of the Russian state to finance the war and its military remains quite strong,” said Connolly, director of the Eastern Advisory Group and researcher at the Center for Russian, European and Eurasian Studies.

“Even in the event that Moscow should run a budget deficit. It has enough fiscal space to do so. It has an extremely low level of debt, it does not need to borrow abroad , it can borrow from domestic sources of liquidity,” he explained. “And at the moment it has this very positive cash flow. So as long as the political will is there in the Kremlin and as long as export prices remain high, I don’t see any immediate financial constraints that the Kremlin will be confronted. “

Connolly, who spoke at a panel hosted by Washington-based think tank CNAS, added that Russia historically maintains high stockpiles of defense equipment.

“I would be very surprised if they weren’t high on the eve of war and so I imagine defense industrial companies will continue to produce in the months to come,” he said. He also said Russia had previously shown it could source Western technology components used in its defense industry despite sanctions.

—Amanda Macias

Putin unlikely to lose power amid war in Ukraine, expert says

Russian President Vladimir Putin attends the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) summit at the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, May 16, 2022.

Sergei Guneev | sputnik | Reuters

As the world coordinates global sanctions against Moscow and part of Russian society opposes the Kremlin’s war in Ukraine, Russian President Vladimir Putin may not be in danger of losing power.

“I would say there are very few signs that he is in danger of losing power anytime soon,” said Andrea Kendall-Taylor, senior fellow and director of the Transatlantic Security Program at the Center for a New American Security, or CNAS.

Kendall-Taylor, a national security expert specializing in Russia and authoritarian regimes, told a virtual audience at the CNAS National Security Conference that Putin’s grip on power is nevertheless considerably weaker since the start of the war.

“I don’t necessarily want to exaggerate public support for war, because there’s very clearly a segment of society that opposes it,” Kendall-Taylor said.

She added that in the scenario where Putin were to die in office, another autocrat would likely replace him.

—Amanda Macias

EU looks to Eastern Mediterranean as gas alternative to Russia

(From right to left) Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and his Italian counterpart Mario Draghi make a joint press statement at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem on June 14, 2022.

Abir Sultan | AFP | Getty Images

European leaders visiting Israel expressed hope that natural gas supplies from the eastern Mediterranean could help reduce dependence on Russia as the war in Ukraine drags on.

Israel has become a gas exporter in recent years following major offshore discoveries and has signed an ambitious agreement with Greece and Cyprus to build a shared gas pipeline. New supplies could help Europe tighten sanctions against Moscow.

“On the energy front, we will work together to use the gas resources of the Eastern Mediterranean and to develop renewable energies,” Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi said during a joint press conference with his Israeli counterpart, Naftali Bennett.

“We want to reduce our dependence on Russian gas and accelerate the energy transition towards the climate goals we have set ourselves,” he said.

Bennett said Israel is working to make natural gas available for Europe. His office said the two leaders also discussed shipping natural gas to Europe via Egypt.

— Associated Press

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