Fighting is continuing in the city of Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine, where Russian shelling caused a huge fire at a chemical plant yesterday.
In a video address on Sunday the regional head of the area has said fighting was ongoing.
Serhiy Haidai said Saturday’s blaze started after tens of tonnes of oil leaked from damaged radiators at the Azot plant.
Hundreds of civilians were taking shelter at the plant. Haidai did not say if the blaze had been brought under control.
The governor said the situation remained very difficult in the village of Toshkivka, on the northwestern outskirts of Sievierodonetsk. But he added that Ukrainian forces had successfully blocked Russia’s advance near Popasna, according to the Kyiv Independent.
On Saturday Haidai admitted most of Sievierodonetsk was now under Russian control. The Russian military said that all of Sievierodonetsk’s residential areas were under its control.
Ukrainian officials estimate that as many as 800 civilians are hiding in underground bomb shelters at the Azot plant.
Also on Saturday Haidai said the situation in Sievierodonetsk was “difficult, but under control”.
The Luhansk regional head said:
Our soldiers are winning in street fights, but, unfortunately, the enemy’s artillery is simply dismantling – floor-by-floor – the houses used by our troops as shelters.
So, when we push the enemy out of one street, they start using their tanks and artillery to destroy the area house-by-house.
Sievierodonetsk is currently the epicentre of Russian efforts to advance in eastern Ukraine, where fighting has lasted more than three months.
Following its failure to capture Ukraine’s capital Kyiv, Russian offensives have focused instead on taking the Luhansk and the Donetsk regions – a large, industrial area known as Donbas.
Taking Sievierodonetsk and its twin city of Lysychansk would give them control over Luhansk.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that Russia could reach a death toll of 40,000 soldiers by early July, according to Iuliia Mendel, a former spokesperson to the president.
Russian forces have destroyed a bridge connecting the embattled city of Sievierodonetsk to its twin city of Lysychansk, cutting off a possible evacuation route for civilians, according to local officials.
Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of Luhansk province, said on Sunday that the Russian military has destroyed a bridge over the Siverskyi River that linked the two cities.
He added that Russian shelling in Lysychansk has killed one woman and destroyed four houses and a shopping center.
According to the head of the Sievierodonetsk administration, approximately a third of the city remained under the control of Ukrainian forces and about two-thirds were in Russian hands.
The head of the Russian Committee for the Prevention of Torture announced on Sunday that he had disbanded the organization after Russian authorities labeled it as a “foreign agent.”
Calling the label an “insult,” Sergei Babinets said, “We don’t want to continue working by being labelled ‘foreign agents’. We consider this term an insult and slander,” Sergei Babinets said on Telegram.
“Despite the obvious importance of our mission, the authorities have been trying for many years to portray it as foreign and harmful,” he said.
“The authorities are sending a signal that torture is becoming (or has already become) a part of government policy,” he added.
The organization was founded 22 years ago and has launched multiple campaigns to urge authorities to investigate mistreatment by seurity forces and implement preventative measures.
Already branded a “foreign agent” in 2015 and again in 2016, the organisation decided to dissolve itself before reforming to try to shake off the designation.
“Foreign agents” are subject to numerous constraints and tedious procedures, or they face heavy penalties. They must indicate their status in all publications.
Russian forces celebrated their country’s national day by exporting stolen metal from Mariupol, according to Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the city’s mayor.
In a statement released on Telegram on Sunday, Andryuschchenko added that Russia’s national day, which is on June 12, is a “day of a murderer and looter.”
President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen has announced the need to strengthen anti-corruption laws in Ukraine.
After meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, the European Commission president said, “There still needs to be reforms implemented, to fight corruption for example, or to modernize the administration, which will also help attract investors.”
The time in Kyiv is just coming up to 8pm. Here is a round-up of the day’s main headlines:
- Fighting is continuing in the city of Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine, where Russian shelling caused a huge fire at a chemical plant yesterday.
- Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has said no one knows how long the war in his country will last. However, he said his forces were defying expectations by preventing Russian troops from overrunning eastern Ukraine.
- The bodies of many Ukrainian fighters killed during the siege of the Azovstal steelworks in the southern city of Mariupol are still awaiting retrieval, the former commander of Ukraine’s Azov National Guard regiment said on Sunday.
- The British Foreign Office has confirmed that a former British soldier has been shot and killed in Ukraine. Jordan Gatley was named in a social media tribute post by his father, who described him as a “hero” who will “forever be in our hearts”.
- The leader of the Russian-backed separatist Donetsk region of Ukraine has said there is no reason to pardon two British nationals who were sentenced to death last week after being captured while fighting for Ukraine.
- Friends and family of Brahim Saadoun – the 21-year-old Moroccan sentenced to death alongside two Britons last week – have called for his freedom, telling the Guardian he was an active-duty marine and not a mercenary as claimed by Russian media and pro-Russia officials in eastern Ukraine who announced the sentence.
- Russian forces fired cruise missiles to destroy a large depot containing US and European weapons in western Ukraine’s Ternopil region, Interfax reported.
- As of 12 June, more than 795 children have been killed or injured in Ukraine, the country’s government has said in its regular update.
- Ukraine has established two routes through Poland and Romania to export grain and avert a global food crisis although bottlenecks have slowed the supply chain, Kyiv’s deputy foreign minister said on Sunday.
That’s it from me, Tom Ambrose, for today. My colleague Maya Yang will be along shortly to continue bringing you all the latest news from Russia’s war in Ukraine.
Security concerns raised by Turkey in its opposition to Finland’s and Sweden’s Nato membership applications are legitimate, Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said on Sunday during a visit to Finland.
“These are legitimate concerns. This is about terrorism, it’s about weapons exports,” Stoltenberg told a joint news conference with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto while visiting him at his summer residence in Naantali, Finland.
Sweden and Finland applied to join the Western defence alliance last month, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Reuters reported.
But they have faced opposition from Turkey, which has accused them of supporting and harbouring Kurdish militants and other groups it deems terrorists.
Stoltenberg said Turkey was a key ally for the alliance due to its strategic location on the Black Sea between Europe and the Middle East
Fierce fighting has continued in the strategic city of Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine, where Russian shelling caused a fire at a chemical plant in which hundreds of civilians are believed to have taken shelter during some of the most intense bombardment of the war.
The governor of Luhansk region, Serhiy Haidai, said in an interview with local television that the Azot chemical plant remained under Ukrainian control, adding that fighting was under way on Sunday on the “outskirts of the city, in the streets directly near the plant”.
On Saturday, Haidai said Russian shelling caused a powerful fire to break out after a leak of radiator oil at the chemical plant. He did not say whether the fire had been extinguished.
A view of the damaged Nika-Tera grain terminal, as Russia’s attacks on Ukraine continues, in Mykolaiv, Ukraine.
The British Foreign Office has confirmed that a former British soldier has been shot and killed in Ukraine (see post at 14.28 BST).
Jordan Gatley was named in a social media tribute post by his father, who described him as a “hero” who will “forever be in our hearts”. Dean Gatley said his son had left the British Army in March “to continue his career as a soldier in other areas”.
He went to Ukraine to help “after careful consideration”, his father added, saying that on Friday the family received the “devastating” news of his death. Gatley said his son had been been shot and killed in the city of Sievierodonetsk, in eastern Ukraine.
In the Facebook post, he said: “After careful consideration, he went to the Ukraine to help. “We have had several messages from his team out there telling us of his wealth of knowledge, his skills as a soldier and his love of his job. His team say they all loved him, as did we, and he made a massive difference to many peoples lives, not only soldiering, but also by training the Ukrainian forces.”
A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “We are supporting the family of a British man who has died in Ukraine.”