‘Fierce battle’ in key east Ukraine city largely under Moscow control: Zelensky

IMAGES The Turkish Foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov meet with their delegations in a much awaited meeting in Ankara. Talks are expected to focus on efforts to open a security corridor to ship Ukrainian grain — cereals and wheat in particular — stuck in the war-torn country’s ports due to a Russian blockade.

Russian forces are now largely in control of the key eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk amid fierce fighting, Kyiv said Wednesday, as UN chief Antonio Guterres starkly warned the war’s impact on the world was worsening.

The strategic city has become the focus of Russia’s offensive as it seeks to seize an eastern swathe of Ukraine, after being repelled from other parts of the country. 

“It is a very fierce battle, very difficult, probably one of the hardest in the course of this war,” Zelensky said in his evening address to the nation.

Later in the day, he said on Telegram that Moscow’s forces control “a large part” of the city — but that its industrial areas were still held by Kyiv.

Russia’s offensive is now targeting the Donbas, after its forces were pushed back from Kyiv and other areas following the February 24 invasion.

Lysychansk remains fully under the control of the Ukrainian army but is under “powerful and chaotic” shelling, Gaiday said, accusing Russian forces of deliberately targeting hospitals and humanitarian aid distribution centres.

– ‘Systemic, severe, and speeding up’ – 

“The war’s impact on food security, energy and finance is systemic, severe, and speeding up,” the UN secretary-general said.

As concerns mounted over grain trapped at Ukrainian ports, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow was ready to ensure the safe passage of ships from Ukraine.

At the request of the United Nations, Turkey has offered its services to escort maritime convoys from Ukrainian ports, despite the presence of mines — some of which have been detected near the Turkish coast.

Lavrov’s Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu called Russian demands for an end to sanctions to help grain onto the world market “legitimate”.

Kyiv, which was not represented at the Ankara talks, pushed back against claims that Western sanctions on Moscow had sent prices soaring.

– ‘Millions’ could die –

Both sides accuse one another of destroying agricultural areas, which could worsen global food shortages.

But Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov rejected suggestions that grain stuck in Ukrainian ports was fuelling the problem.

The war’s economic impact continued to reverberate, with the World Bank cutting its global growth estimate to 2.9 percent — 1.2 percentage points below the January forecast — due largely to the invasion.

Severodonetsk appeared close to being captured just days ago but Ukrainian forces launched counterattacks and managed to hold out, despite warnings they were outnumbered by superior forces.

The situation was also increasingly desperate in Lysychansk.

“I tried to go to the city authorities, but nobody’s there, everyone has run away.”

“This is our home, that’s all we know. We grew up here, where else should we go?” said the 19-year-old.

Originally published as ‘Fierce battle’ in key east Ukraine city largely under Moscow control: Zelensky


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