Russia tightens grip on important Ukrainian city
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Russia tightens grip on important Ukrainian city

Russia tightened its grip on a key target in a battle to control Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region. At the same time, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy called for more Western weapons to help Ukraine reach an “inflection point” on the battlefield and win the war.

Russia tightens grip on important Ukrainian city

Zelenskiy told the Luxembourg parliament via video link on Thursday that Russian troops now occupy about a fifth of Ukrainian territory, with battle lines extending more than 1,000 km.

As the invasion enters its 100th day on Friday, Russia says Washington is adding “oil to the fire” with a new $700 million ($A965 million) weapons package for Ukraine, which will include advanced missile systems with a range of up to 80 kilometers.

But separately, in a speech at a forum in Slovakia, Zelenskiy called for more arms deliveries to “ensure a turning point in this confrontation” in Ukraine’s favor.

The administration of US President Joe Biden said it had assurances from Ukraine that it would not use the missile systems to hit targets in Russia.

“Ukraine is waging an exclusively defensive war, and we always say that,” Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar said at a briefing when asked if Kyiv made such a promise.

While Moscow denies targeting civilians, it views Ukraine’s infrastructure transport used to bring Western weapons as a legitimate target. But it downplayed the effect those stockpiles will have on what it calls its “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid Ukraine of ultranationalists, the Kremlin says threaten Russian security.

“Pumping (Western) weapons into Ukraine does not change all parameters of the special operation,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.

“The goals will be achieved, but this will bring more suffering to Ukraine,” Peskov said in response to a question about whether US plans to sell Ukraine drones that can be armed with missiles could change the nature of the conflict.

Russian forces, supported by heavy artillery, control most of the eastern industrial city of Sievierodonetsk – now largely in ruins – after days of fierce fighting in which they suffered losses, the British Ministry of Defense said in its daily intelligence report.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces said that in addition to attacking the city, Russian forces also attacked other parts of the east and northeast.

The capture of Sievierodonetsk and its smaller twin brother Lysychansk would put Russian forces in control of all of Luhansk, one of two provinces along with Donetsk in the Donbas claimed by Moscow on behalf of separatists.

Taking Luhansk would accomplish one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s goals and further shift momentum on the battlefield in Russia’s favor after its forces were pushed back from the capita,l Kyi,v and northern Ukraine.

Moscow’s troops also attempted to advance south into the Ukrainian-occupied cities of Kramatorsk and Sloviansk in Donetsk province, provincial governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said.

The war and Western sanctions imposed in response to the February 24 invasion greatlyimpactedt the global economy. With its control of some of Ukraine’s largest seaports and critical shipping routes in the Black Sea, Russia is blocking the export of Ukrainian agricultural products and exacerbating a global food crisis.

Russia and Ukraine account for almost a third of the world’s wheat supp. At the same time, le Russia is also a major exporter of fertilizers, and Ukraine is a major maize and sunflower oil supplier.

The Interfax news agency signaled a potential breakthrough, citing Russia’s defense ministry on Thursday that ships carrying grain will be allowed to leave Ukraine’s Black Sea ports through “humanitarian corridors” with Moscow poised to ensure their safety.