Pressure on West to get arms to Ukraine as Russia advances

Russian troops appear on the verge of fully capturing Ukraine’s key city of Severodonetsk, bringing them closer to their goal of taking over two eastern provinces and increasing pressure on the US and its European allies to quickly deliver advanced weapons systems to try to turn the tide .

Moscow’s forces have taken control of “most” of Severodonetsk, Britain’s Defense Ministry said in a briefing on Thursday. Their gains follow street battles and heavy artillery shelling that has leveled parts of the city near the banks of the strategic Seversky Donets River.

The capture of Severodonetsk could hasten the fall of Luhansk, one of two eastern provinces bordering Russia and forming the Donbass region, where the Kremlin has concentrated its military power after failing to capture the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv .

Serhiy Haidai, Luhansk regional governor, said Thursday via messaging app Telegram that Severodonetsk has not yet fallen and that Ukrainian soldiers have driven Russian troops out of some streets. He said Ukrainian forces were in contact with some residents hiding in bomb shelters. Up to 12,000 civilians are believed to be in the city.

Woman walking past the rubble of a badly damaged building

A woman walks past a building damaged by a missile attack in Sloviansk, Ukraine.

(Andriy Andriyenko/Associated Press)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video address to lawmakers in Luxembourg that Russian forces now control almost 20% of Ukrainian territory and that “tens of thousands” of people have died in the first 99 days of the war.

To add to the economic and political heat on Russia, the White House on Thursday announced another round of sanctions against prominent Russian officials, oligarchs and business elites. The Commerce Department also plans to extend its export controls to groups in Russia and Belarus to block access to advanced technologies needed to sustain the war effort.

Meanwhile, the United States and its allies on Thursday expressed support for the International Criminal Court’s prosecution of Russian war crimes, which has deployed dozens of investigators, forensic experts and support staff to Ukraine.

“We have received reports of women and girls being raped, some in public, and children being trafficked to Russia and put up for adoption,” US Undersecretary of State Uzra Zeya said at a United Nations Security Council meeting. “Russian forces continue to deny safe passage to civilians fleeing violence and humanitarian organizations trying to reach those in need.”

US officials say the war of attrition could drag on for months and that the West has no choice but to supply increasingly sophisticated military equipment to bolster Ukraine’s defenses.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov condemned the aid and its providers, saying on Thursday they would “bring more suffering to Ukraine, which is just a tool in the hands of the countries that supply them with weapons.”

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Thursday that Britain would send an unspecified number of missile launchers capable of accurately hitting targets up to 50 miles away. The announcement came a day after the US promised to send a similar missile system, as well as helicopters and Javelin anti-tank weapons. The systems are currently superior to what Ukraine – whose troops are being trained to use – has.

Additionally, Germany has newly pledged to supply anti-aircraft missiles and Slovakia said it will send eight howitzers, though as part of a commercial deal rather than military aid. Sweden has also announced its intention to donate anti-ship missiles, anti-tank weapons, semi-automatic rifles and ammunition.

Russia has been attempting to thwart supplies of Western arms, most recently on Wednesday night when four cruise missiles fired from ships in the Black Sea hit railway infrastructure outside the western city of Lviv, causing significant damage, Lviv region head Maksym Kozytsky said.

He said five people were injured and that four of them were hospitalized and were in moderate condition. It was the latest example of Russia targeting Ukraine’s extensive rail network, of which Ukrainians are very proud.

The strikes have caused significant damage and delays in a rail system that has helped carry hundreds of thousands of displaced people to safety since the war began.

A school in Kharkiv’s Kiev district was hit by Russian shells on Wednesday night, Ukrainian emergency officials said, killing a woman and wounding a man.

Continued indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets have taken a massive toll on the children of Ukraine, Zelenskyy said in a video address on Wednesday.

He said at least 243 children have died, 139 are missing and 446 have been injured since Russia’s February 24 invasion.

“These are just the ones we know about,” said Zelenskyy, who was celebrating International Children’s Day. “We do not yet have all the information from the currently occupied territory.”

In addition to the victims, Zelenskyy said, among the many Ukrainians who were resettled against their will in Russia, there were an estimated 200,000 children. The youth include children from orphanages and children who have been separated from their parents and families.

“This is one of Russia’s most heinous war crimes,” he said. “The Russian state scatters these people on its territory, especially settles our citizens in remote regions. The purpose of this criminal policy is not just to steal people, but to make the deportees forget Ukraine and not be able to return.”

In a rare bright spot for the contested country, Ukraine defeated Scotland 3-1 in an emotionally charged World Cup qualifier on Wednesday. The game in Glasgow was the first appearance of the Ukraine men’s national football team since the beginning of the war. The squad will advance to the World Cup in Qatar later this year when they defeat Wales on Sunday.

“Two hours of happiness,” Zelenskyj wrote in a Facebook post. “Something we’re not used to.”

Soccer players dressed in yellow run towards fans in a stadium with arms raised, some holding blue and yellow flags

Ukraine men’s national soccer team celebrates a goal during a World Cup qualifier in Scotland, June 1, 2022.

(Jane Barlow/Associated Press)

McDonnell reported from Lemberg, Pierson from Singapore and Baumgaertner from Los Angeles. Pressure on West to get arms to Ukraine as Russia advances

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