Moscow asks Kiev's forces holed up in a chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk city to surrender and plans a corridor to evacuate civilians from the site, as Russia's broader offensive enters its 112th day.

Ukrainian President Zelenskyy says he was
Ukrainian President Zelenskyy says he was "grateful" for a new American arms package to Kiev after speaking with US President Biden. (AP)

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Biden announces $1B in new military aid for Ukraine

US President Joe Biden has announced a new package of arms and ammunition for Ukraine after reaffirming Washington's support for Kiev against Russia's offensive in a call with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

The package of $1 billion worth of arms includes more artillery, coastal anti-ship defence systems and ammunition for artillery and advanced rocket systems that Ukraine is already using, Biden said. 

The latest package, the US said, includes anti-ship missile launchers, howitzers and more rounds for the High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) that US forces are training Ukrainian troops on now. 

"I am grateful for this support, it is especially important for our defence in (the eastern region of) Donbass," said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

Russia urges Sievierodonetsk surrender

Russia's defence ministry calls on Ukrainian fighters holding out at a chemical plant in the war-torn eastern city of Sievierodonetsk to halt their "senseless resistance" and surrender.

The Russian army also announces plans to organise evacuations on for hundreds of civilians, including dozens of children, believed to sheltering inside the Azot plant.

It says the evacuees will be taken to a part of the Luhansk region held by pro-Moscow separatists. 

Gazprom cuts Nord Stream deliveries

Russia's energy giant Gazprom says it will reduce daily gas deliveries via the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany due to the "repair" of compressor units by German company Siemens.

The deliveries from the Portovaya compression station near the northwestern city of Vyborg are set to be reduced by around one third.

Along with many Western companies, German conglomerate Siemens announced its exit from the Russian market over Russia's offensive in Ukraine. 

Türkiye establishes ‘red line’ diplomacy to solve grain crisis caused by Russia-Ukraine conflict

Türkiye’s National Defence Ministry said it has implemented "red line" diplomacy to solve the grain crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine conflict. 

A "red line" was formed to discuss the issue more closely and bring it to a conclusion, under the leadership of Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar. The Ukrainian and Russian defence ministries will each assign one general who will be in direct contact with Türkiye to solve the problem.

“We have intense negotiation traffic with both Russia and Ukraine. Both sides have some reservations. We are working to eliminate the reservations. We are hopeful,” said Akar.

US urged Western countries to 'intensify' arms supplies to Ukraine

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has urged allies not to “lose steam” on sending weapons to Ukraine as Kiev pleads desperately for heavier arms to hold back Russia’s offensive.

“We must intensify our shared commitment to Ukraine’s self defence, and we must push ourselves even harder to ensure that Ukraine can defend itself, its citizens and its territory,” Austin said at a meeting in Brussels with some 50 countries backing Ukraine. 

Ukraine's president seeks tighter sanctions on Russia

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has urged the European Union to tighten sanctions on Russia, warning that Russian forces could target other countries after attacking his own country.

In a speech to both chambers of the Czech parliament via a video link, Zelenskyy reiterated calls for the EU to allow Ukraine to start on the road to membership of the 27-nation bloc by giving it candidate country status. 

"As in the past, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is the first step that the Russian leadership needs to open the way to other countries, to the conquest of other peoples," he said. 

NATO to help Ukraine with transition to Western weapons

A NATO summit in Madrid later this month is expected to agree an assistance package for Ukraine that will help the country with the move from old Soviet-era weaponry to NATO standard gear, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said. 

"It is very much about enabling the Ukrainians to transition from Soviet-era, from old equipment to more modern NATO standard equipment," he told reporters ahead of a meeting of the alliance's defence ministers in Brussels. 

Putin, Xi agree to ramp up economic cooperation amid sanctions: Kremlin

Russian leader Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to ramp up economic cooperation in the face of "unlawful" Western sanctions, the Kremlin said.

"It was agreed to expand cooperation in the energy, financial, industrial, transport and other areas, taking into account the situation in the global economy that has become more complicated due to the unlawful sanctions policy of the West," the Kremlin said following phone talks between the leaders. 

UN probes allegations Russians adopting Ukrainian children

The UN rights chief has said her office is investigating allegations that children are being sent from war-torn Ukraine to Russia and then offered up for adoption.

Speaking before the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva, Michelle Bachelet said her office "has been looking into allegations of children forcibly deported from Ukraine to the Russian Federation."

These reportedly included children who were "taken from orphanages and subsequently offered for adoption in Russia," she said. 

Britain considering more anti-ship missiles for Ukraine

Britain is considering sending additional anti-ship missiles to Ukraine, beyond the weapons it has already promised, Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has said.

Wallace said that delivery of guided multi-launch rocket systems (MLRS) Britain has promised to Ukraine would be "imminent" and that London was considering sending more weapons. 

"We are obviously exploring anti-ship capabilities greater than we already put, in the Brimstone family of weapons systems," he told reporters during a visit to Oslo. 

US targets Russia with tech to evade censorship of Ukraine news

The US government has pushed new, increased funding into three technology companies since the start of the Ukraine conflict to help Russians sidestep censors and access Western media, according to five people familiar with the situation.

The financing effort is focused on three firms that build Virtual Private Networks (VPN) - nthLink, Psiphon and Lantern – and is designed to support a recent surge in their Russian users, the sources said.

VPNs help users hide their identity and change their online location, often to bypass geographic restrictions on content or to evade government censorship technology.

NATO chief hopeful of Türkiye's efforts to resume Ukrainian grain shipment

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has said he hopes that Türkiye’s efforts in enabling shipment of Ukrainian grain from Black Sea ports will lead to a solution.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu has recently hosted his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov for talks on grain stuck in Ukrainian ports. Ukraine is one of the world’s largest exporters of wheat, corn and sunflower oil, but the conflict has halted much of that flow.

Stoltenberg also said NATO members will continue to supply Ukraine with heavy weapons and long-range systems. "We are extremely focused on stepping up support," he told a news conference.

'Up to 1,200 civilians' may be in plant at centre of Ukraine battle

Up to 1,200 civilians may be holed up in the shelters of the Azot chemical plant in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk, where one of the fiercest battles of the conflict has been raging between Russian and Ukrainian forces, a Russian-backed separatist has said.

"About 1,000 to 1,200 civilians of Sievierodonetsk may still be on the territory of the Azot chemical plant," Rodion Miroshnik, an official in the Russian-backed self-styled separatist administration of the Luhansk People's Republic, said on Telegram.

Miroshnik said the civilians are in part of the plant that is still controlled by Ukrainian forces, which he said numbered up to 2,000 people including Ukrainian and foreign fighters. Ukraine says the number of civilians at the plant is closer to 500.

Separatists: Ukraine trying to disrupt humanitarian corridor

Russian-backed separatists have said Ukrainian forces sought to disrupt a humanitarian corridor out of the sprawling ammonia factory in the strategic city of Sievierodonetsk to a separatist-controlled town, the RIA news agency has reported.

Russia said on Tuesday it dismissed a Ukrainian request for a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians to Kiev-controlled territory, citing the destruction of the last bridge across the Siverskyi Donets river which blocks the city's eastern exits.

"We offer the militants of nationalist battalions and foreign mercenaries located at the Azot plant to cease any hostilities," Moscow's defence ministry said. Russia's corridor northwards to the city of Svatove was supposed to be open until Wednesday evening.

Russia: Destroyed NATO arms depot in western Ukraine

Russia has said its forces destroyed a depot containing NATO-supplied arms in western Ukraine as President Volodymyr Zelenskyy urged Western allies to speed up arms deliveries to his country.

"Near the town of Zolochiv in Lviv region, high-precision long-range Kalibr missiles destroyed an ammunition depot of foreign weapons transferred to Ukraine by NATO countries, including 155-mm M777 howitzers," the defence ministry said in a statement.

Ukraine said on Tuesday it had received just 10 percent of the weapons it requested from the West to deter Russia's military intervention.

Macron: Ukraine president will have to negotiate with Russia at some point

French President Emmanuel Macron has said Ukraine will have to hold talks with Russia at some point, in order to try and bring an end to the conflict between the two countries.

"The Ukrainian President and his officials will have to negotiate with Russia," said Macron, while on a visit to Romania and Moldova.

Macron arrived in Romania on Tuesday for a three-day trip to NATO's southern flank including Moldova before possibly heading to Kiev on Thursday on a visit with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, two diplomatic sources said.

Romanian president says EU should grant Ukraine EU candidate status

Granting Ukraine candidate status for the European Union is the correct call, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis has said, adding that a decision may come by the end of June.

"In my opinion, the candidate status must be granted as soon as possible, it is a correct solution from a moral, economic and security perspective," he said after talks with French President Emmanuel Macron.

Ukraine: 2.4M hectares of winter crops won't be harvested

Some 2.4 million hectares of winter crops with a total value of $1.435 billion will remain unharvested in Ukraine because of Russia's offensive, the Ukrainian agriculture ministry has said.

It said the agriculture sector had so far suffered losses of $4.292 billion because of the conflict. It estimated that the number of animals killed in areas affected by fighting included 42,000 sheep and goats, 92,000 cows, 258,000 pigs and more than 5.7 million birds.

Russia plans evacuations from chemical plant in battleground city

Russia has said it will establish a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from a chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk starting Wednesday as Kiev's forces wage a desperate battle for control of the strategic eastern Ukrainian city.

The Russian defence ministry announced a humanitarian corridor would be established for evacuations from the plant, saying it was "guided by the principles of humanity". About 500 civilians are taking shelter in the Azot chemical plant, according to the city administration.

Evacuees would be transported to the city of Svatovo in the separatist-held region of Luhansk, Moscow said, urging those holding out at the plant to cease their "senseless resistance". Moscow's forces have intensified efforts to cut off Ukrainian troops in the city, destroying all three bridges which connect it across a river to the twin city of Lysychansk.

UK says hundreds of civilians sheltered in Ukraine's Azot Chemical Plant

Elements of Ukraine's Armed Forces and several hundred civilians are sheltering in underground bunkers in Azot Chemical Plant in the embattled city of Sievierodonetsk, Britain's defence ministry has said. Russian forces now control the majority of the Ukrainian city, it said in a Twitter update.

Russia told Ukrainian forces who were holed up in the chemical plant to lay down their arms by early Wednesday, pressing its advantage in the battle for control of eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine's need for more weapons major focus as defence ministers meet

Dozens of defence ministers from NATO and other parts of the world are expected to discuss weapon deliveries to Ukraine in Brussels, US officials said, as Kiev calls for a significant increase in arms to help hold off Russian troops in eastern Ukraine.

The meeting on Wednesday on the sidelines of a NATO defence ministerial is being led by US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin, and it is the third time the group of nearly 50 countries are meeting to discuss and coordinate assistance to Ukraine.

Ukraine needs 1,000 howitzers, 500 tanks and 1,000 drones among other heavy weapons, presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Monday. Western countries have promised NATO-standard weapons, including advanced US rockets. But deploying them is taking time.

Zelenskyy: Donbass battle will determine 'course of war'

Ukraine's battle against Russian troops in the eastern region of the Donbass will determine the "course of the war," President Zelenskyy has said, asking his nation to stay strong in the face of Moscow's devastating attack against two key cities.

"Unfortunately, there are painful losses. But we must stay strong. This is our nation," Zelenskyy said in a video address. "Hanging in there in Donbass is crucial. Donbass is the key to deciding who will dominate in the coming weeks."

As the outcome of the conflict hangs in the balance, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg endorsed Ukraine's increasingly desperate calls for more weapons, urging allies to speed up deliveries to Kiev.

For live updates from Tuesday (June 14), click here

Source: TRTWorld and agencies