Zelenskiy expects more weapons as battle for eastern Ukraine rages on

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  • Russia owns 20% of Ukrainian territory, says Zelenskiy
  • Russian-held areas are a ‘complete disaster’ – Zelenskiy
  • Russia warns US against arming Ukraine
  • UN aid chief in Moscow for grain talks

LVIV, Ukraine, June 3 (Reuters) – Ukraine expects to receive more weapons from its allies after a fresh pledge of U.S. aid, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said, as the battle for eastern Ukraine was raging 100 days after the Russian invasion.

Russian forces now occupy about 20% of Ukrainian territory, according to Zelenskiy. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s army is focusing on the industrial Donbass region, made up of Luhansk and Donetsk, in hopes of a high-profile victory.

Three civilians were killed in Donetsk, including two in the coal town of Avdiivka, and nine people were injured, Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said Thursday evening. Reuters could not immediately confirm details.

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“The entire temporarily occupied territory of our state is now a complete disaster area, for which Russia bears full responsibility,” Zelenskiy said in a late-night address.

“We expect more good news on arms procurement from other partners…We are working to take the procurement of modern combat systems to a much higher level,” he said.

Russia has accused the United States of adding fuel to the fire with a new $700 million weapons package for Ukraine that will include advanced rocket systems with a range of up to 80 km (50 miles).

President Joe Biden’s administration has repeatedly said it has assurances from Ukraine that it will not use the rocket systems to hit targets inside Russia.

Russia says it is engaged in a “special military operation” to disarm and “denazify” its neighbor. Ukraine and its allies call it a baseless pretext for a war that has killed thousands, destroyed cities and forced more than 6 million people to flee abroad.

DONBAS

While Moscow denies targeting civilians, it says it views Ukrainian infrastructure used to bring in Western weapons as a legitimate target.

But he says Western supplies will not alter the course of his attack.

“Injecting weapons into Ukraine does not change all the parameters of the special operation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters when asked if US plans to sell Ukrainian drones that can be armed with missiles could change the nature of the conflict. Read more

“Its goals will be achieved, but it will bring more suffering to Ukraine.”

Russia’s Pacific Fleet has launched a series of week-long exercises involving more than 40 ships and up to 20 aircraft, Russian news agencies quoted the Defense Ministry as saying. Read more

On the ground in Ukraine, the eastern industrial city of Sievierodonetsk is now largely in ruins after days of fierce fighting.

Its capture and that of the smaller twin Lysychansk would give Russia control of all of Luhansk, which, like Donetsk, is claimed by Russia on behalf of the separatists.

Capturing Luhansk would accomplish one of Putin’s stated goals and shift the momentum of the battlefield further in Russia’s favor after its forces were pushed back from the capital, Kyiv, and the north.

Forces from Moscow were also trying to advance south toward the Ukrainian cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in Donetsk, Governor Kyrylenko said.

THE UN TALKS ABOUT CEREALS

The war and Western sanctions imposed in response are weighing heavily on a global economy still grappling with damage from the coronavirus pandemic.

With its control of some of Ukraine’s largest seaports and critical Black Sea shipping routes, Russia has blocked Ukrainian agricultural exports and aggravated a far-reaching food crisis.

UN aid chief Martin Griffiths is in Moscow on Thursday and Friday to discuss with Russian officials how to pave the way for exports of grain and other foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports in the black Sea.

“The situation remains fluid,” said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, adding that the UN “will do and go wherever we need to go to move this project forward.”

Russia and Ukraine together account for nearly a third of global wheat supplies, while Russia is also a major fertilizer exporter and Ukraine a major supplier of corn and sunflower oil.

Interfax news agency quoted Russia’s Defense Ministry as saying on Thursday that ships carrying grain could leave Ukrainian Black Sea ports via “humanitarian corridors”, with Russia ready to guarantee their safety.

As Washington blacklisted more Kremlin-linked individuals and entities, including a major steel producer and a cellist it called Putin’s go-between, the European Union gave its approval final to a sanctions package that includes a 90% cut in Russian oil imports by the end of the year.

Russia called the import ban “self-defeating”, saying it could destabilize global energy markets. Read more

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Reports from Reuters offices; Written by Costas Pitas and Stephen Coates; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Robert Birsel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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