War in Ukraine: Latest developments

AFP , Saturday 4 Jun 2022

Here are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine.

Ukrainian servicemen
Self-propelled howitzers M109A3, provided in the framework of international technical assistance by Norway, shooting on the front line with Russian troops in an unknown place in Ukraine on June 4, 2022. AFP


Russia says Ukraine withdrawing from key city

Russia's army says Ukrainian military units are withdrawing from the key city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine.

"Some units of the Ukrainian army, having suffered critical losses during fighting for Severodonetsk, are pulling out towards Lysychansk," Severodonetsk's twin city, which sits just across a river, the defence ministry says.

It adds however that some Ukrainian fighters are still in the city.

Gaining control of Severodonetsk would give Russia de-facto control of Lugansk, one of two regions along with Donetsk that make up the Donbas.

Russia claims it sent forces into Ukraine on February 24 to defend residents of two self-proclaimed Russian-backed statelets, the Donetsk and Lugansk People's Republics.

Russia 'throwing all its power' at Severodonetsk

Ukraine says Russia is using all its available forces to capture Severodonetsk in a bid to control the entire eastern Donbas region.

"The situation in the region as a whole is extremely difficult. Fighting is now concentrated in Severodonetsk because, as we understand it, the Russian army is throwing all its power, all its reserves in this direction," Lugansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday says.

He says that once equipped with Western long-range weapons, Ukrainian forces "will push their artillery back... and then Russian infantry will run" from the region.

Ukraine blames Russia for blaze at revered church

A wooden Orthodox church on one of Ukraine's most sacred Orthodox sites was set ablaze, church authorities say, amid fierce fighting in the Donbas.

"As a result of hostilities, a large-scale fire broke out on the territory of the All Saints Skete of the Holy Dormition Sviatogirsk Lavra," they say.

"The flames completely engulfed the main church of the monastery," a statement adds.

Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko blames Russian forces for the blaze. He says about 300 displaced Ukrainians had been seeking shelter there, including 60 children.

Russia continues "to prove its inability to be part of the civilised world," he says in the statement condemning the attack.

Russia's defence ministry says its military was not conducting operations in the region.

The facility is seen as one of the three most sacred sites in Ukraine for Orthodox believers. Before the war, it drew thousands of pilgrims a year.

Ukraine slams Macron over call for diplomacy

Kyiv criticises comments by French President Emmanuel Macron, who repeated that Moscow should not be humiliated to improve chances of diplomatically resolving the war in Ukraine.

"Calls to avoid the humiliation of Russia can only humiliate France and every other country that would call for it," Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba says.

Russia instead should be "put in its place", to "bring peace and save lives".

Macron in an interview Friday restated his long-held position that Russia should not be "humiliated... so that the day the fighting stops we can pave a way out through diplomatic means".

Macron also said his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin committed a "historic and fundamental error" by invading Ukraine.

AU head 'reassured' on food shortages

African Union head Macky Sall says he is "reassured" after talks with Putin on food shortages caused by Moscow's military campaign in Ukraine.

Putin hosted the Senegalese president, who chairs the African Union, at his Black Sea residence in Sochi.

Putin says there is "no problem" to export grain from Ukraine, and it can be done via Ukrainian ports, via others under Russian control, or even through central Europe.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is expected in Turkey next Wednesday for talks on creating a "security corridor" to unblock exports from Ukraine.

French Open champion makes emotional peace plea

Iga Swiatek receives a standing ovation at Roland Garros with an emotional "stay strong Ukraine" peace plea after winning her second French Open title.

The 21-year-old Pole was speaking after a speedy win over Coco Gauff in only 68 minutes in Paris.

"I wanted to say something to Ukraine, to stay strong, because the war is still there," says Swiatek who has worn a ribbon in the colours of the Ukraine flag on her cap throughout the tournament.

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