By The Associated Press
KYIV, Ukraine —Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the fighting was brutal in the eastern Donbas but there has been “some progress” in the city of Sievierodonetsk, where Russian forces have been tightening their grip. He said it was too early to give specifics.
“It’s the toughest there right now. As in the cities and communities nearby – Lysychansk, Bakhmut and others,” Zekenskyy said late Thursday in his nightly video address to the nation. “There are many cities where the Russian attack is powerful.”
Zelenskyy said Russian forces were mobilizing people from areas of the Donbas that were already under their control and sending them into battle in the first line of attack, with Russian troops coming in behind them.
“The longer the war goes on, the more vile, shameful and cynical things Russia is forever inscribing in its history,” he said.
Zelenskyy said he was thankful to the United States for agreeing to send advanced rocket systems. “These weapons really can save the lives of our people and defend our land,” he said.
According to Zelenskyy, Ukraine is expecting deliveries of modern combat systems from other countries and noted that Sweden announced Thursday it was sending a new package of military assistance.
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— In Ukraine, broken lives in a broken house
— Photo Gallery: 100 days of extraordinary images from Ukraine
— US, Germany agree to supply Ukraine advanced weapons
— Ukraine’s quest to qualify for the World Cup surges on during war
— Ukrainian stabs Ukrainian at New York bar, thinking he’s Russian
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
KYIV, Ukraine — Some 60 percent of the infrastructure and residential buildings in Lysychansk, one of only two cities in the east still under at least partial Ukrainian control, have been destroyed from attacks, a local official said Thursday.
Oleksandr Zaika, head of Lysychansk City Military-Civil Administration, said on an “information telemarathon” cited by the Unian news agency that non-stop shelling had knocked out electricity, natural gas, telephone and internet service.
One of the most critical pathways for supplies and evacuations, the Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway, is still open but under constant bombardment.
Humanitarian supplies are still reaching the city, where shrapnel and mines dot the landscape, he said.
Zaika said 20,000 people are left in the city, down from a pre-war population of 97,000.
Lysychansk is separated by a river from the other city in the region that’s still under at least partial Ukrainian control, Sievierodonetsk. It, too, is under Russian siege.
UNDATED — A funeral was held Thursday for a retired Russian Air Force major-general whose plane was shot down while flying a combat mission in his country’s invasion of Ukraine.
The Russian state news agency Tass said Kanamat Botashev, a 63-year-old major-general who volunteered to return to service, had been shot down last month while flying over the eastern Donbass region.
Since invading Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russia has suffered the loss of several generals and other senior officers.
In reporting on a memorial service held Thursday in Cherkessk — the capital of the Karachay-Cherkess Republic, Russia — Tass said Botashev was flying in response to a request for help from an assault group blocked by enemy forces.
He “decided to carry out an attack at an ultra-low altitude, and struck at the Armed Forces of Ukraine, and that subsequently helped the group to get out of the encirclement,” Tass reported.
It said that when leaving the attack, the plane was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile and Botashev was killed. He was awarded the posthumous title of “Hero of Russian Federation.”
On May 22, the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said a Russian Su-25 attack plane was shot down over the Luhansk region and that the pilot did not have time to eject.
News reports at the time tied that incident to Botashev’s death, which the Russian government had not confirmed until Thursday.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. humanitarian chief was to meet with Russian officials Thursday as part of U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ efforts to enable Ukrainian and Russian agricultural exports through the Black Sea amid a global food crisis.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters that Undersecretary-General Martin Griffiths met officials Wednesday and will continue his meetings Thursday.
Guterres said there was no resolution as of Wednesday, but the U.N. is engaged in serious dialogue with all relevant parties “in order to find a package deal.”
Dujarric noted that Griffiths’ visit to Moscow followed a Monday visit to the Russian capital by Rebeca Grynspan, the secretary-general of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development known as UNCTAD. Grynspan is focusing on getting Russian grains to global markets. She later went to Washington.
“We’ve seen a lot of positive statements coming from various capitals,” Dujarric said. “We also very much appreciate the role that Turkey is playing in all of this. If we have something concrete to announce, we will do so.”
ANKARA, Turkey — Turkey’s state-run news agency on Thursday said officials from Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the United Nations will meet in Istanbul soon to discuss plans for the establishment of a “corridor” that would allow the export of Ukrainian agricultural products.
The Anadolu Agency said the sides are set to discuss a possible route for the corridor, insurance issues and security for the corridor. They are also slated to take up the need to clear the route of mines as well as the creation of a command center that would oversee the mechanism.
Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports is preventing the supply of millions of tons of grain around the world.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed the need for a corridor for the export of agricultural products during telephone calls with Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Russian President Vladimir Putin earlier this week.
KYIV, Ukraine – A regional governor on Thursday said an estimated 800 people are holed up in bomb shelters at a chemical factory under attack in Sievierodonetsk, the latest epicenter of Russia’s war on Ukraine.
Luhansk Gov. Serhiy Haidai told CNN children are among those taking shelter at the Azot factory, the largest chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk.
Russian forces attacked the factory again Thursday, damaging an administrative building and warehouse storing methanol. Only a small quantity of chemicals remains at the factory, according to Haidai.
While Russian forces have taken control of much of the city, the industrial zone remains in Ukrainian hands, he added.
He dismissed potential comparison between the Azov situation and a steel mill at the port city of Mariupol, where civilians and Ukrainian fighters were holed up for weeks, under Russian attack.
Russian forces entered Sievierodonetsk, the largest city Ukraine holds in the eastern Luhansk region, after weeks of shelling as they try to take full control of the industrial Donbas region.
WASHINGTON — NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Thursday sought to underscore the alliance’s appreciation of Turkey as an “important ally.”
He offered the conciliatory words to Ankara ahead of a planned gathering of senior officials from Sweden, Finland and Turkey in Brussels next week to discuss Turkey’s opposition to the Nordic countries joining the defense alliance.
Stoltenberg made the comments to reporters after meeting with President Joe Biden and White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan at the White House for what was billed as preparatory talks for the Madrid NATO Summit to be held this month.
Stoltenberg said he discussed Sweden and Finland’s application to join NATO with Biden and Sullivan and expressed confidence that the alliance would find a path to addressing Ankara’s concerns. But Stoltenberg also seemed to go out of his way to note Turkey’s value to the alliance.
“I think we need to also recognize that Turkey is an important ally. Turkey contributes to our security in many different ways,” said Stoltenberg, who noted the country’s Turkey’s efforts at countering Islamic State militants.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has insisted Finland and Sweden must show more respect for Turkish sensitivities about terrorism since the countries filed their NATO applications. He is refusing to budge over what he says is their alleged support for Kurdish militants.
KYIV — The new U.S. ambassador to Ukraine on Thursday said her No. 1 mission “is to help Ukraine prevail against Russian aggression” and that the delivery of military aid is being accelerated.
Bridget Brink spoke to reporters Thursday after meeting and presenting her credentials to Ukraine’s president.
“There is no place on the planet I would rather be,” she said. “President Biden has said that we’re going to be here, helping Ukraine, for as long as it takes. And that’s what we’ll do.”
She said deliveries of military assistance are getting to Ukraine faster than earlier in the war.
“My understanding is that now it’s very quick, within days, less even, of a decision, that the hardware is in Ukrainian hands,” she said.
More weaponry will be coming, she promised.
Listing other priorities, Brink also vowed that U.S. officials “will work to ensure the world holds Russia to account for atrocities and war crimes.”
She arrived in Kyiv on May 29.
VILNIUS, Lithuania — Inspired by an act of generosity by Lithuanians, a Turkish manufacturer is donating a drone that will go to the war-torn country of Ukraine, Lithuania’s defense minister said Thursday.
Last week, Lithuanians raised 5.9 million euros in several days to buy a drone for Ukraine. Lithuanian officials had travelled to Turkey to sign a contract with the producer to acquire it.
But Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas wrote on Facebook that the Turkish manufacturer was so “impressed” by the Lithuanian people that it is “donating a drone Bayraktar TB2 to Lithuania.”
The Lithuanian government plans to send the drone to Ukraine later this month.
Some 1.5 million euros of the money raised by Lithuanians will be spent on drone munition, while the remaining 4.4 million would be earmarked for humanitarian and other assistance to Ukraine, Anusauskas said.
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says if Russia prevails in its war in Ukraine “then the dark times will come for everyone” in Europe.
Addressing the parliament in Luxembourg via a video link on Thursday, Zelenskyy said: “If we win this war, all Europeans will be able to continue enjoying their freedom.”
“But if this one person who wants to destroy any freedom in Ukraine and Europe prevails, then dark times will come for everyone on the continent,” he added, referring to the Russian president, Vladimir Putin.
He said Russia currently controls almost 20% of Ukraine’s territory, an area larger than Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg combined, and that “tens of thousands” of people have died in the first 99 days of the war.
“This is what it means, in fact, to characterize this war as full-scale,” Zelenskyy said. “And this is why we are calling the world for their support.”
BRATISLAVA, Slovakia — European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen says it’s in the European Union’s strategic interest but also “our moral duty” to make it possible for Ukraine to join the 30-nation bloc.
Von der Leyen made her remarks on Thursday at an international security conference in Slovakia’s capital. She spoke after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy’s gave a video address at the annual gathering.
Zelenskyy has asked for more weapons for Ukraine’s armed forces to be able to prevail over the invading Russian military, called for more EU sanctions against Russia, and repeated his country’s request to become “a full-fledge member of the united Europe.”
Von der Leyen says Ukraine must meet all necessary standards and conditions to be able to join but she has called on the EU to help Ukraine achieve its goal.
She said: “Supporting Ukraine on its path to the European Union, it is not a burden, it is our historic responsibility.”
MOSCOW — The Kremlin has again denounced Western plans to supply more weapons to Ukraine.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters during his daily conference call that “the pumping” of weapons “will bring more suffering to Ukraine, which is merely a tool in the hands of those countries that supply it with weapons.”
Britain said Thursday that it is sending sophisticated medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine. The pledge came a day after the United States and Germany said they would equip the embattled nation with advanced weapons for shooting down aircraft and knocking out artillery.
Peskov warned of “absolutely undesirable and rather unpleasant scenarios” in case “they hypothetically try to use these weapons against targets on our territory.”
“This will significantly change the situation in an unfavorable direction,” Peskov said.
KYIV, Ukraine — A Ukrainian military analyst says an uptick in Russian missile strikes comes in response to Western promises to supply more weapons to Ukraine.
“Supplies of Western weapons are of great concern for the Kremlin, because even without sufficient weapons the Ukrainian army is daringly resisting the offensive,” military analyst Oleh Zhdanov told The Associated Press.
“Any advance in the southeast is already costing Russia a lot, including the loss of equipment and soldiers, and new deliveries of Western weapons to Ukraine could turn the tide,” he said.
STOCKHOLM —The Swedish government said Thursday it wants to help Ukraine with economic aid and military hardware amid “a new phase of the Russian invasion.”
The Swedish government said it wants to donate anti-ship missiles, semi-automatic rifles and munitions, anti-tank weapons and give financial support to Ukraine, Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist said.
The missiles “can reach targets both on land and at sea. The automatic rifle that we will donate … can be used with several different types of ammunition that can be used for different purposes,” Hultqvist said.
Sweden also plans to contribute 578 million kronor ($59 million) to “strengthen Ukraine’s ability to combat Russian aggression at a critical time,” a government statement said.
BERLIN — Germany’s vice chancellor says Russia’s continued income from high fuel prices “hurts” but the Russian economy is collapsing and “time is working against Russia.”
Robert Habeck, who is also Germany’s economy minister and responsible for energy, told parliament Thursday that “the income that (Russian President Vladimir) Putin has obtained in recent months because of high prices hurts, and we can only be ashamed that we haven’t yet managed to reduce this dependence more significantly.”
But he argued that looking at Russia’s gas and oil income doesn’t tell the whole story. Habeck said that “Putin is still getting money, but he can hardly spend it any more” because of Western sanctions. He pointed to big drops in exports to Russia, including from Germany.
Habeck said that “time is not working for Russia. It is working against Russia, it is working against the Russian economy.” He added that “no one wants to invest in Russia any more.”
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