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As it happened — Ukraine holds Sievierodonetsk plant

June 12, 2022

Ukraine remains in control of a plant in Sievierodonetsk sheltering civilians, the Luhansk regional governor said. DW has more.

Smoke rises after a military strike on a compound of Sievierodonetsk's Azot Chemical Plant
About 200 employees of the plant and 800 civilians are believed to be sheltering at Azot chemical plantImage: Oleksandr Ratushniak/REUTERS
  • China's defense minister discusses the war at Asian defense summit
  • Ukraine said it remains in control of Sievierodonetsk plant
  • More than 4 million refugees have crossed into Poland.

This live updates article has been closed. For the latest on Russia's invasion, please click here.

Ukraine's military chief says hostilities are taking place on 1,105 km frontline

Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of Ukraine Valerii Zaluzhnyi said in a Facebook post on Sunday that he has spoken with Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.

According to Zaluzhnyi, the frontline in Ukraine is currently 2,450 km wide, of which 1,105 km was an area of active hostilities.

The situation in the city of Sievierodonetsk is particularly complicated, but Ukrainians stopped the Russian advance, Zaluzhnyi said.

"Up to 7 battalion tactical groups were deployed by the enemy there. Despite the heavy fire, we managed to stop the enemy," he wrote.

Zaluzhnyi also mentioned that he asked Milley to help Ukraine get more 155 mm artillery systems in the shortest possible time.

WTO members express solidarity with Ukraine

Over 50 WTO members issued a joint statement at the World Trade Organization's 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) in solidarity with Ukraine.

According to the statement, the war is having a "devastating impact, including on Ukraine’s economy and ability to trade."

"We are gravely concerned about the consequences of this destruction for Ukraine and for global trade, in particular as regards the supply to international markets of a number of key commodities produced by Ukraine, including agricultural and food products, fertilizers, sunflower oil, and critical minerals", the statement read.

It is also noted that Ukraine is one of the world’s top exporters of key agricultural products like wheat, maize, barley, and sunflower oil, as well as a major supplier to the World Food Program.

The WTO members promised Ukraine support and assistance in agricultural exports and efforts to rebuild the country in a post-war period.

Six Marder infantry fighting vehicles are ready for delivery — Rheinmetall

German company Rheinmetall completed the modernization of the first Marder-type infantry fighting vehicles. Six vehicles are "ready," a company spokesman said in a comment to German news agency dpa on Sunday.

Rheinmetall is in the process of repairing 100 Marders, its chairman Armin Papperger told the German newspaper "Bild am Sonntag."

With a view to a possible delivery to Ukraine, he added: "When and where Marders are delivered is the decision of the federal government."

According to Papperger, 88 Leopard 1 tanks and some Leopard 2 tanks are also in the depot at Rheinmetall for modernization.

Ukraine wants Germany to deliver heavier weapons so that it can better defend itself against Russia. But the German government has not yet given permission to send Marders to Ukraine.

Marder infantry fighting vehicles
Ukraine asks Germany to deliver heavier weapons, such as Marder-type infantry fighting vehicles, so that it can better defend itself against RussiaImage: Armin Weigel/dpa/picture alliance

Former British soldier killed fighting in Sievierodonetsk

A former British soldier Jordan Gatley has been killed fighting for the Ukrainian armed forces in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, his family said.

He is the second Briton to be killed in the conflict after the death of Scott Sibley in April.

Gatley's father Dean wrote in a Facebook post that his son left the British army in March and travelled to Ukraine where he had been helping train local forces.

"He loved his job and we are so proud of him," Dean Gatley wrote, saying his family had learned of Jordan's death on Friday. "He truly was a hero and will forever be in our hearts."

There has been fierce street fighting in Sievierodonetsk, the regional capital of the eastern Luhansk region. The city is one of the last areas in the Luhansk region that is under control by Ukrainian forces.

Pro-Russian separatist leader upholds foreigners' death sentences

Denis Pushilin, the leader of the pro-Russian separatist Donetsk region, said Sunday he would not alter the death sentences handed to two Britons and a Moroccan for fighting with the Ukrainian army.

"They came to Ukraine to kill civilians for money. That's why I don't see any conditions for any mitigation or modification of the sentence," Pushilin told reporters.

He also accused British Prime Minister Boris Johnson of ignoring their fate and failing to contact the separatist authorities.

On Saturday, Johnson's spokesman said he was "appalled" by the death sentences handed down to Britons Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner and Moroccan Brahim Saadoun.

"It is clear they were Ukrainian armed forces members and are therefore prisoners of war," and not mercenaries as the separatist authorities in Donetsk accuse them of being, the spokesman said.

Russia gradually seizes territory around Sievierodonetsk — UK intelligence

Russia is using its overmatch in force ratio and artillery to "gradually seize territory in and around Sievierodonetsk" from Ukrainian control, the UK Defense Ministry said on Sunday.

Russia continues looking to generate more combat units to deploy to Ukraine. In recent weeks, Russia has likely started preparing to deploy the third battalion from some combat formations, the ministry said in an intelligence update, while most brigades normally only commit a maximum of two of their three battalions to operations at any one time.

Third battalions within brigades are often not fully staffed, and deploying all three of their battalions simultaneously will likely reduce longer term capacity to regenerate combat power after operations, the UK Defense Ministry said.

Sievierodonetsk is the regional capital of the eastern Luhansk region. The city is one of the last areas in the Luhansk region that is under control by Ukrainian forces.

Scores of Ukraine Azovstal fighters' bodies still in Mariupol

The bodies of some Ukrainian fighters killed during the siege of the Azovstal plant in the southern city of Mariupol must still be retrieved.

The former commander of Ukraine's Azov National Guard regiment, Maksym Zhorin, said around 220 bodies of those killed in Azovstal had already been sent to Kyiv but "just as many bodies still remain in Mariupol."

Mariupol was captured by Russia in May after the surrender of hundreds of Ukrainian soldiers holed up in the Azovstal.

"Talks are continuing about further exchanges, to return home all the bodies. Absolutely all bodies must be returned and this is something we will work on," Zhorin said in a video posted on his Telegram channel.

Ukraine exports grain through Poland and Romania

Ukraine's deputy foreign minister said the country is exporting grain through Poland and Romania rather than by sea, but that bottlenecks have slowed the supply chain.

"Those routes are not perfect because it creates certain bottlenecks, but we are doing our best to develop those routes in the meantime," Dmytro Senik told the Reuters news agency.

The Ukrainian rail system operates on a different gauge from European neighbors, so the grain must be transferred to different trains at the Polish border, where there are few transfer or storage facilities.

Re-routing grain to Romania involves transport by rail to ports on the Danube river and loading cargoes onto barges which then sail towards the port of Constanta, a complex and costly process.

Senik said Kyiv was looking for a third corridor for food exports through the Baltic states.

Ukraine is the world's fourth-largest grain exporter, and it says some 30 million metric tonnes of grain are stored in Ukrainian-held territory.

Ukraine says Russia is blockaded its Black Sea ports preventing shipments abroad, while Russia blames Western sanctions and Ukrainian mines off its coast for the drop in exports.

A second Mariupol?

Number of Ukrainian refugees into Poland passes 4-million mark

As the conflict in Ukraine continues, more than 4 million refugees have crossed into Poland.

The Polish border patrol agency said 24,900 people arrived in Poland on Saturday alone, but 28,000 people also headed back to Ukraine.

It is impossible to say how many of the incoming refugees have stayed in Poland and how many have traveled further into Europe.

Polish President Mateusz Morawiecki recently said his country hosted about 2 million Ukrainian refugees.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR says nearly 5 million Ukrainians have been registered as refugees across Europe since the Russian invasion.

Von der Leyen says EU faces 'historic' decision on Ukraine

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Sunday said member states face a "historic decision" on whether to grant Ukraine membership status.

"I hope that in 20 years, when we look back, we will be able to say that we did the right thing," von der Leyen said on her way back to Poland after visiting Kyiv.

She met Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Saturday to discuss the remaining points of contention in Ukraine's application for membership. Zelenskyy has pressed for rapid admission to the European Union.

The EU executive wants to publish its recommendation at the end of the week on whether the country, which has been resisting a Russian invasion since February 24, should be granted EU candidate status.

The challenge would be to emerge from the EU summit later in June with a unified position "that reflects the scope of this historic decision."

Ukraine has achieved a lot in recent years, but much remains to be done, said von der Leyen on her way back to Poland. "Our recommendation will carefully reflect that," she added.

New Russian chain replaces McDonald's in Moscow

The replacement for McDonald's in Russia opened the first 15 restaurants in Moscow on Sunday.

The company said the new name of the chain, "Vkusno & tochka" means "Tasty & that's it."

The first restaurant opened on Moscow's Pushkin Square, where McDonald's first opened in the Soviet Union in January 1990.

More than 1,000 former McDonald's restaurants would eventually be part of a new chain.

McDonald's left the Russian market and sold its business after Moscow sent troops into Ukraine.

China supports talks between Ukraine and Russia

Chinese Defense Minister Wei Fenghe said at Asia's premier defense summit, the International Institute for Strategic Studies Shangri-La Dialogue, that his country is greatly saddened by events in Ukraine and supports talks between Russia and China. Wei also said that China has never provided materiel to Russia's war effort despite a joint declaration outlining priorities before the war started. 

War in Ukraine: Does China hold the cards?

In that joint Russian-Chinese declaration, the official Chinese translation into English did not include the portion of the statement concerning NATO as a threat to both countries whereas the official Russian translation made no such omission.

In a speech earlier at the Shangri-La Dialogue, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the dispute over Taiwan, which China views as a breakaway province. He quoted the former long-serving leader of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew: "Big fish eat small fish and small fish eat shrimps," and urged the international community to act in support of Taiwan before there can be a war. 

German President Steinmeier criticizes ex-Chancellor Schröder

Frank-Walter Steinmeier, the German President, criticized former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder for his business ties to Russia.

Steinmeier told the Bild am Sonntag newspaper, "Gerhard Schröder's commitment to Russian energy companies has raised many question marks in Europe, especially among our Eastern European neighbors, and has left many question marks also with regard to our country."

Steinmeier was head of the Chancellor's office during Schröder's time in office from 1999 until 2005 but appeared to be trying to distance himself from his former political ally.

"We went our way together for 15 years, and for 17 years I have gone my political path without him. During this time, Gerhard Schröder made personal decisions that have led us apart," Steinmeier said.

Steinmeier has also faced criticism for his perceived closeness to Russia and only after considerable hesitation did he say he had made mistakes in his evaluation of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Photographs appearing to show Steinmeier's friendly relationship with Putin and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during past encounters continue to incense Germany's eastern neighbors.

Ukraine remains in control of Sievierodonetsk plant sheltering civilians

Serhii Haidai, the governor of the Luhansk region, said Ukraine remained in control of the Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk, where hundreds of civilians are said to be sheltering, despite a large fire caused by Russian shelling. 

On the Telegram messaging app, Haidai said, " The information about the blockade of the Azot plant is a lie." He added, "Our forces are holding an industrial zone of Sievierodonetsk and are destroying the Russian army in the town."

By contrast, Rodion Miroshnik who represents Russian occupation authorities in Luhansk claimed civilians had begun to leave the plant. He said those who remain are "hostages."

Approximately 200 employees of the plant and 800 civilians are believed to be sheltering in underground bomb shelters at the plant.

What happened in Russia's invasion of Ukraine on Saturday

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said heavy weapons and artillery will determine the Ukrainian army's ability to fend off Russian attacks in the Donbas region. Zelenskyy said Ukrainian forces "are doing everything to stop the offensive, as much as they possibly can," and that they would continue to do so "as long as there are enough heavy weapons, modern artillery."

Ukraine pleads for more arms, ammunition

German newspaper Bild am Sonntag reported on Saturday that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz is planning a joint trip to Kyiv with French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. The German government has not commented on the report. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen returned to Kyiv on Saturday for a meeting with President Volodymyr Zelenskyy as the EU is evaluating Ukraine's bid to start the accession process and ultimately join the bloc. Zelensky said that a positive reply from the EU would be a historic moment for Europe. 

The mayor of the port city of Mariupol Vadym Boychenko said sanitation systems were broken and corpses were rotting in the streets after the city was reduced to ruins by a Russian siege. Boychenko is no longer in the city following its capture. 

The office of Ukraine's prosecutor general said on Saturday that it has learned of the deaths of 24 more children in Mariupol "as a result of the indiscriminate shelling by the Russian military." In total, the office said that at least 287 children have died since February 24, when the Russian invasion began.

Serhii Haidai, governor of Luhansk province, also accused Russia of flamethrowers in a village in Ukraine's eastern Luhansk province, southwest of the fiercely contested cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. 

British military intelligence said in its latest update on the war in Ukraine that since April, Russian bombers have "likely" been launching "dozens" of 1960s-era heavy, anti-ship missiles meant to destroy aircraft carriers with nuclear warheads against land targets in Ukraine. The Kh-22 missiles, when used in ground attacks with conventional warheads, are "highly inaccurate and can cause severe collateral damage and casualties."

The family of a UK national, Shaun Pinner, who was fighting for Ukraine and was condemned to death by a court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DNR), said they were devastated by the outcome of what they said was an "illegal show trial." Pinner was one of three foreign men convicted by the separatist court for allegedly engaging in mercenary activities and terrorism.

Speaking at a Democratic Party fundraiser in Los Angeles, US President Joe Biden said his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelenskyy had doubted US intelligence about Russia's pending invasion. He said many people thought he was exaggerating when he warned of the possibility of a Russian attack.

You can revisit our updates from Thursday, June 9, here.

lo, ar/aw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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