Ukrainian forces are holding just 20 percent of Severodonetsk, the mayor of the eastern city said on Wednesday as Russian forces pushed further into the Donbas region. The Russian advance comes as the United States said it will provide Ukraine with advanced rockets to help it force Moscow to negotiate an end to the war. Read about the day’s events as they unfolded on our liveblog. All times are Paris time (GMT+2).
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11:46pm: Zelensky says Ukraine losing 60–100 soldiers every day in Donbas
Ukraine successfully stopped Russia from seizing Kyiv after its February 24 invasion but the campaign in the east has had a high cost, with President Volodymyr Zelensky saying that 60 to 100 soldiers were dying each day.
“The situation in the east is very difficult,” Zelensky told US newsgroup Newsmax.
9:11pm: Injured Ukrainian soldiers brought from frontlines to Zaporizhzhia hospital
Reporting from Ukraine, FRANCE 24’s Jonathan Walsh says he was at a hospital in the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia where a lot of injured soldiers were being brought in from the frontlines as fighting has intensified across eastern Ukraine.
7:35pm: Civilians sheltering under chemical plant in Severodonetsk: governor
A number of civilians are sheltering from Russian shelling under a chemical plant in Severodonetsk and it is possible there are still stocks of dangerous chemicals at the facility, according to the regional governor.
“There are civilians there in bomb shelters, there are quite a few of them, but it will not be a second Azovstal as that (plant) had a huge underground city … which isn’t there at Azot,” Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai told Reuters, referring to the prolonged siege of a steel plant in Mariupol.
6:52pm: Biden announces new weapons package for Ukraine
President Joe Biden has announced “a significant new security assistance package” to the Ukrainian military that will include high mobility artillery rocket systems, precision weapons that can accurately hit targets as far away as 80 km (50 miles).
“The United States will stand with our Ukrainian partners and continue to provide Ukraine with weapons and equipment to defend itself,” Biden said in a statement.
“This new package will arm them with new capabilities and advanced weaponry, including HIMARS with battlefield munitions, to defend their territory from Russian advances,” said Biden referring to High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) light multiple rocket launchers.
Biden announced the plan to give Ukraine the HIMARS after receiving assurances from Kyiv that it would not use them to hit targets inside of Russian territory.
4:21pm: Lavrov warns US rocket supplies could widen Ukraine conflict
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said the supply of US advanced rocket launchers to Ukraine raised the risks of a “third country” being dragged into the conflict.
Lavrov was responding to a question at a news conference in Saudi Arabia about US plans to provide Ukraine with advanced rocket systems that can strike with precision at long-range Russian targets.
The Russian foreign minister’s trip comes as Moscow faces growing pressure and sanctions from the US and its allies over its Ukraine invasion. Oil-exporting Gulf nations have maintained ties with Moscow and have not imposed sanctions on Russia.
2:10pm: Kremlin says no news of French reporter’s death
The Kremlin has said it doesn’t have information on the death of French journalist Frédéric Leclerc-Imhoff, who was killed in eastern Ukraine, reportedly during a Russian bombardment.
“To draw conclusions, you need detailed information about where it took place, under what circumstances, what is the truth, what is not. We don’t have such information,” Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
Leclerc-Imhoff was killed Monday during a civilian evacuation on the road to Lysychansk in Ukraine’s eastern Severodonetsk region.
French President Emmanuel Macron said Leclerc-Imhoff was on board a humanitarian bus with civilians fleeing Russian bombings when he was fatally wounded.
Peskov’s comment was the first by a Russian official since Leclerc-Imhoff, who was working for the French BFM TV channel, was killed.
France’s anti-terrorist prosecutor has opened a war crimes inquiry into his death.
1:35pm: Pro-Russia separatists claim gains outside eastern Ukraine’s Avdiivka
Kremlin-backed separatists in Ukraine on Wednesday claimed they were edging closer to completely encircling the eastern town of Avdiivka after cutting off one of its two main roads.
Together with pro-Moscow separatists, Russian troops have been ramping up attacks on Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region that has seen heavy fighting since the start of Russia’s military campaign in Ukraine.
The village of Novosselovka 2, located on the outskirts of Avdiivka, “has been liberated” and separatist forces “have taken control of a portion” of the nearby highway, the militia of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic said on messaging app Telegram. It added that separatists have “finally cut off the Avdiivka garrison from one of the two available supply routes”.
AFP could not independently verify these claims.
1:30pm: ‘Evolution’ in US approach to arming Ukraine
“We’ve seen an evolution in the US position” on arming Ukraine, said FRANCE 24’s International Affairs Editor Douglas Herbert. “The US has been […] taking the lead in providing Ukraine – up until now; since the invasion – both with financial assistance and military assistance. And we’ve seen a ratcheting up here.”
1:21pm: Head of Severodonetsk administration says just 20 percent of city in Ukrainian hands
Ukrainian forces are holding just 20 percent of the eastern city of Severodonetsk but there is still hope that they can prevent Russia taking full control, the head of the city administration told Reuters in a telephone interview on Wednesday.
Russian forces control 60 percent of the city, while the rest has become “no-man’s land”, said Oleksandr Stryuk, the Ukrainian head of the city administration, who declined to give his location.
12:58pm: US ‘adding fuel to the fire’ with new arms supplies, Kremlin says
The Kremlin on Wednesday accused Washington of “adding fuel to the fire” by planning to supply Ukraine with advanced missile systems.
“We believe that the United States is adding fuel to the fire deliberately and on purpose,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
“Such supplies” do not encourage Kyiv to resume peace talks, Peskov said, adding that Washington wanted to “fight Russia to the last Ukrainian”.
12:30pm: Kremlin blames West, Ukraine for potential global food crisis
The Kremlin said on Wednesday that Moscow was taking measures to “minimise” the effects of a partial oil embargo imposed by EU countries to punish Russia for its military campaign in Ukraine.
“Sanctions will have a negative effect for Europe, us and the whole global energy market,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters. “But a reorientation is under way (in Russia) that will allow us to minimise the negative consequences.”
11:30am: Russia views ‘very negatively’ new US-Ukraine weapons agreement
“Even though Biden has secured from Zelensky […] agreement not to use those advanced mid-range rocket systems [against] Russian territory or targeting Russian interests in their territory, then even so the deputy Russian foreign minister has been saying this […] expected delivery and the general package of military aid announced by the United States is being viewed very negatively in Russia,” noted FRANCE 24 International Affairs Editor Angela Diffley. “He says it increases the chances of a US-Russian confrontation.”
10:36am: Governor of Luhansk region says Russia controls 70 percent of Severodonetsk
Russian forces are now in control of around 70 percent of Severodonetsk, a strategically important city in Ukraine’s east, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Wednesday.
“Some Ukrainian troops have retreated to more advantageous, pre-prepared positions,” Gaidai said on the Telegram messaging app.
10:34am: Germany to send IRIS-T air defence system to Ukraine, Scholz says
Germany will supply Ukraine with the IRIS-T medium-range surface-to-air defence system, Chancellor Olaf Scholz said, following pleas from Kyiv as well as German opposition parties to step up heavy weapons deliveries to the country.
“We have been delivering continuously since the beginning of the war,” Scholz said on Wednesday, pointing to more than 15 million rounds of ammunition, 100,000 hand grenades and over 5,000 anti-tank mines sent to Ukraine since Russia invaded the country on February 24.
10:03am: Wheat can’t be ‘weapon of war’, Pope says urging lifting of Ukraine block
Pope Francis on Wednesday appealed to 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 to thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square, he said the block should be lifted because many millions of people depend on wheat from Ukraine, particularly in the world’s poorest countries.
8:06am: Russian forces ‘inexorably’ taking more of Severodonetsk
“The governor of the Luhansk region Serhiy Haidai just posted on his Telegram that Russian forces now control the better part of Severodonetsk – more than half, I take that to mean – but of course it’s very hard to know how exactly you calculate these things: are we talking in terms of square metres or the most densely populated parts of the town?” 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 forward again. But it does seem that over the last few days that – albeit slowly, inexorably – Russian forces are taking more and more of this city of Severodonetsk.”
4:02am: Denmark to hold referendum on scrapping EU defence opt-out
Danish voters will on Wednesday decide whether to join the European Union’s defence policy, potentially becoming the final hold-out in the bloc to sign up as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forces countries to radically reassess their security.
Denmark is the only member of the 27 nation bloc not in the Common Security and Defence Policy, having secured exemptions from it and the euro currency in a 1993 referendum on the Maastricht Treaty, which laid the groundwork for the modern EU.
If the Danes vote to abolish the opt-out, as polls suggest will be the case, it would mark another significant shift in policy for Europe after Russia launched the invasion in February.
2:17am: US sending Himars multiple rocket system to Ukraine military: official
The United States is sending Himars advanced multiple rocket systems to Ukraine, a US official said Tuesday, ending days of speculation over the latest upgrade of military aid to Kyiv in its fight against Russia.
The Himars use precision-guided munitions, the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told reporters. The range is about 50 miles (80 kilometers), with Washington deciding against sending munitions with a far 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.
12:10am: Ukraine’s Zelensky blasts ‘crazy’ Russia over chemical plant hit
Ukraine‘s President Volodymyr Zelensky accused Moscow of “madness” Tuesday after Russian troops hit a chemical plant in their bid to complete the capture of a key eastern city.
The battle for control of Severodonetsk has been intensifying this week, with heavy casualties on both sides, as EU leaders haggle over banning Russian gas to punish the Kremlin for its three-month-old invasion of its pro-Western neighbour.
One of the industrial hubs on Russia’s path to taking the eastern Lugansk region, Severodonetsk has become a target of massive Russian firepower since the failed attempt to occupy Kyiv.
Russians now control most of the destroyed city, regional authorities said Tuesday, adding that enemy forces had hit a nitric acid tank at a chemical plant and warning people to stay indoors.
“Given the presence of large-scale chemical production in Severodonetsk, the Russian army’s strikes there, including blind air bombing, 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 Russian commanders, for Russian soldiers, any madness is absolutely acceptable.”
11:05pm: Exclusive: Embedded with the Karpatska Sich battalion in Donbas
The Ukrainian army is determined to slow down Russia’s steady advance in the eastern Donbas region as Moscow concentrates its efforts on encircling the area. Reporting from the northwestern frontline in the Donbas, a FRANCE 24 team followed the Karpatska Sich battalion as they fight to halt the Russian advance.
10:05pm: Communication shutdown in Russian-occupied Kherson: Ukraine
Ukrainian officials are reporting a “shutdown 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 equipment had been powered down and cables disconnected.
“The residents of the region are currently left without Ukrainian mobile communication and Internet access, as well as with no means to make national and international phone calls using landline phone devices,” the agency said.
9:48pm: Ukrainian forces making some progress in southern region: Zelensky
Ukrainian forces have had some success near the southern city of Kherson and are advancing in parts of the Kharkiv region to the east of Kyiv, said President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“Our defenders are showing the utmost courage and remain masters of the situation at the front despite the fact the Russian army has a significant advantage in terms of equipment and numbers,” he said in a late-night address.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)