Russia pushes for more control in east Ukraine; NATO meeting to discuss Sweden, Finland

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June 15 (UPI) — After weeks of fighting, Russia’s military is in control of at least 80% of Severodonetsk — a city in eastern Ukraine believed to be the largest that’s still under some Ukrainian control.

The regional governor of Luhansk, one of two provinces in eastern Ukraine that make up the Donbas, gave the assessment Wednesday.

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Russia’s bombing of three main bridges that lead into Severodonetsk has cut off humanitarian supplies and evacuation routes, while pro-Russia separatist fighters warned Ukrainian forces to “surrender or die” there.

Luhansk region Gov. Serhiy Haidai said about 500 civilians, including dozens of children, were still inside the Azot chemical factory in Severodonetsk. Officials were hoping to get them out through a still-to-be negotiated corridor.

Also Wednesday, Russia’s defense ministry claimed that forces destroyed an ammunition depot in Ukraine that contained weapons sent by NATO, the United States and other supporting governments. The United States has contributed billions of dollars worth of aid and equipment for Ukraine over the past three months.

Nearly 30 British journalists have been barred from Russia over their reporting of the war in Ukraine, Russian officials said Wednesday. File Photo by Yuri Gripas/UPI
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Ukrainian forces said earlier that a counter-offensive in southern Ukraine has allowed Ukrainian troops to retake control of several areas near the Russian-occupied city of Kherson. They added, though, that a lack of heavy artillery will probably slow plans to retake the city.

“The enemy continues to fight, but our units are gradually forcing him to liberate positions and test the strength of the second and third lines of defense, and in some cases to retreat further,” Ukraine’s southern military command said according to The New York Times.

Meanwhile, Russia on Wednesday announced that it’s barred almost 30 British journalists, arguing that they’d been associated with Ukraine’s “defense complex” and had spread “false information about Russia.”

“The British journalists included in the list are involved in the deliberate dissemination of false and one-sided information about Russia and events in Ukraine and Donbas,” Russian officials said, according to The Guardian.

In all, 29 British journalists were banned in Russia on Wednesday.

Later Wednesday, NATO was scheduled to convene a meeting of all defense ministers to discuss supplying more aid and equipment to Ukraine.

During the two-day meeting, the defense ministers are expected to dedicate more resources for Ukraine — and possibly advance requests from Sweden and Finland to join the defensive alliance.

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A woman eats food given to her by volunteers at a food delivery station run by a Hare Krishna group in Kharkiv, Ukraine, on May 20, 2022. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI | License Photo