Ukraine president says 'outnumbered' in strategic city Severodonetsk

Blaise Gauquelin - Agence France-Presse
Ukraine president says 'outnumbered' in strategic city Severodonetsk
Smoke and dirt rise in the city of Severodonetsk during fighting between Ukrainian and Russian troops at the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas on June 2, 2022.
AFP / Aris Messinis

KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky warned Monday that his troops were outnumbered by a "stronger" Russian side, as the two countries' forces battled for control of the eastern city of Severodonetsk.

"We're holding out" in the key city, but "there are more of them and they are stronger," Zelensky told journalists in Kyiv, one day after a daring visit to frontline positions in Lysychansk, which sits across the Siverskyi Donets river from Severodonetsk.

Moscow, meanwhile, lashed out over European countries denying overflight rights to the aircraft of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Russia expanded its list of American officials banned from entering the country, while Washington placed a seizure order on two aircraft owned by billionaire oligarch Roman Abramovich, raising the stakes for business people in Russian President Vladimir Putin's circle.

Zelensky, along with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, also warned Monday of tightening supplies of grain on the global market due to what Blinken said was a Russian strategy of "blackmail".

"There is somewhere around 20 million tonnes of wheat that is trapped in silos near Odessa, and in ships literally filled with grain that are stuck in the Odessa port because of this Russian blockade," said Blinken.

Heavy shelling

Rhetoric has spiked on both sides of the war, now in its fourth month, as Britain followed the United States in announcing it would supply longer-range, mobile missile launchers to Ukraine's forces, which could improve Kyiv's fight against Russian firepower.

The British Defense Ministry said it would be supplying track-mounted M270 multiple rocket artillery units, which can strike targets up to 80 kilometres (50 miles) away with precision-guided rockets, double what more standard battlefield artillery can reach.

The announcement came after Putin had warned that Moscow will hit new targets in Ukraine if the West supplies Kyiv with such weapons -- but did not specify which targets.

Fighting and heavy artillery strikes remained focused on the Donbas front and especially in Severodonetsk, the largest city of the Lugansk Oblast still not under Russian control.

In Lysychansk, pensioner Oleksandr Lyakhovets said he had just enough time to save his cat before flames engulfed his flat after it was hit by a Russian missile.

"They shoot here endlessly... It's a horror show," the 67-year-old told AFP.

Russian forces pressed their offensive on several other fronts in the east of Ukraine, with Kyiv saying it had repulsed seven attacks around Donetsk and Lugansk.

The Russian defence ministry said its aircraft had hit three arms depots and a fuel storage facility near the village of Kodema, in the Donetsk region.

Both sides have gained and lost ground in recent days in Severodonetsk. Analysts say Ukrainian forces, in holding key areas of the city while attacking on other parts of the front lines, have highlighted weaknesses in Russia's capacity to push forward.

"The ability of Ukrainian forces to successfully counterattack in Severodonetsk, the Kremlin's current priority area of operations, further indicates the declining combat power of Russian forces in Ukraine," said the US-based Institute for the Study of War.

Grain 'blackmail'

On Monday, Lavrov hit out at European countries that prevented his plane passing through their airspace, forcing him to cancel a visit to ally Belgrade.

Serbian daily Vecernje Novosti reported that NATO-members Bulgaria, North Macedonia and Montenegro had refused access to their airspace.

"The unthinkable has happened... This was a deprivation of a sovereign state of the right to carry out foreign policy," Lavrov told journalists in Moscow.

Global concern over food supplies mounted as the Russian blockade on the port city of Odessa continued.

"Right now we have about 20 to 25 million tonnes blocked. In the autumn that could be 70 to 75 million tonnes," said Zelensky, whose country was the world's fourth biggest grain exporter before the war.

In Washington, Blinken said Russia had exacerbated the grain crisis by "hoarding" its own grain, preventing it from being exported.

At the same time, Blinken called "credible" reports that Russia was exporting grain stolen from Ukraine.

"Quite simply put, it's blackmail," Blinken said. — with Quentin Tyberghien in Donbas





As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 7, 2022 - 7:48am

President Vladimir Putin says he hopes that Moscow and the West could find a solution to the raging security crisis over Ukraine, but also accused Washington of using Kyiv as a "tool" against Russia.

"I hope that in the end we will find a solution, although it will not be simple," Putin says, indicating he was ready for more talks with the West, which has accused Moscow of massing more than 100,000 troops on the border and plotting to invade Ukraine.

"It seems to me that the United States is not so much concerned about the security of Ukraine... but its main task is to contain Russia's development," Putin says. — AFP

October 7, 2022 - 7:48am

Ukraine says it had recaptured swathes of fresh territory from Russian troops as Kyiv urged Europe to help its forces expel Moscow's army once and for all.

The proclaimed wins in the southern region of Kherson are the latest in a series of Russian defeats undermining the Kremlin's claim to have annexed around 20 percent of Ukraine.

Russian missiles early on Thursday struck the central city of Zaporizhzhia, killing several civilians, as rescue workers clawed through rubble with their bare hands searching for survivors, AFP journalists saw.

"The Armed Forces of Ukraine have liberated more than 400 square kilometres of the Kherson region since the beginning of October," southern army command spokeswoman Natalia Gumeniuk says in a briefing online. — AFP

October 6, 2022 - 4:31pm

At least two people died and five others were missing in attacks on Ukraine's southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, the region's governor says, blaming Russia for the strikes.

The Ukrainian-controlled city is located in the eponymous Zaporizhzhia region, also home to the Russian-occupied nuclear plant that has been the site of heavy shelling. 

Moscow annexed the region this week, despite not having full control of it.  

"One woman died and another person died in an ambulance," Ukrainian-appointed governor Oleksandr Starukh says on social media. — AFP

October 6, 2022 - 9:43am

Russian President Vladimir Putin says that he expected the situation to "stabilise" in Ukrainian regions annexed by the Kremlin after Moscow suffered military setbacks and lost several key towns to Kyiv.

He also ordered his government to seize control over Europe's largest nuclear power plant in the Russian-controlled region of Zaporizhzhia, with IAEA head Rafael Grossi en route to Kyiv for consultations on the facility. — AFP

October 5, 2022 - 3:16pm

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday signed legislation to annex four territories of Ukraine, according to documents published by a government portal. 

The Donetsk, Lugansk, Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions are "accepted into the Russian Federation in accordance with the constitution of the Russian Federation", the documents says. — AFP

October 5, 2022 - 10:37am

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says his forces were making "rapid and powerful" gains in southern Ukraine and that they had retaken "dozens" of villages from Russia this week.

"The Ukrainian army is quite rapidly and powerfully advancing in the south," Zelensky says in his daily address on social media, adding that "dozens of settlements" had been recaptured in the south and east.

Some of the territory was taken back in the regions of Kherson, Lugansk and Donetsk, he says, where referendums were held last week on being annexed by Russia.

Kyiv and the West have denounced the referendums as a sham. — AFP

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