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Capturing Sievierodonetsk brings Moscow closer to taking full control of Luhansk, an administrative region in Ukraine's Donbas. Meanwhile, Moscow claims it has killed dozens of Polish fighters.
This article was last updated at 21:48 UTC/GMT
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British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Saturday urged fellow G7 leaders not to "give up" on Ukraine four months into Russia's war. He also pledged fresh financial support for Kyiv.
"Ukraine can win and it will win. But they need our backing to do so. Now is not the time to give up on Ukraine," Johnson said in a statement on the eve of a Group of Seven summit in the Bavarian Alps.
Britain stands ready to provide another 429 million pounds ($525 million or €497 million) in loan guarantees, the statement from Downing Street said, warning that the Ukrainian government fears it could run out of cash by autumn without fresh cash injections.
Johnson will join US President Joe Biden, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, French President Emmanuel Macron and counterparts from Italy, Canada and Japan atBavaria's Elmau Castle for the G7 summit from June 26-28.
In a late-night video address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said his country had been hit by 45 Russian missiles over the previous 24 hours, which he described as a cynical attempt to break Ukrainians' spirits.
According to Zelenskyy, Ukraine is in a morally and emotionally difficult period of the war, when people understand that they can defend their state but do not know how many more losses there will be before they sense victory approaching.
Zelenskyy said rocket attacks not only destroy Ukraine's infrastructure but also exert a very cynical, calculated pressure on the emotions of the Ukrainian people.
"But Russian missiles can't break the spirit of Ukrainians. And each of their missiles is an argument in our negotiations with partners," Zelenskyy added.
The Ukrainian president said Russian attacks confirm that sanctions packages against Russia are not enough and that Ukraine needs more armed assistance, especially air defense systems.
He also said Ukraine would win back all the cities it had lost to Russia, including Sievierodonetsk, which fell to Moscow's forces earlier in the day.
The Ukrainian city of Sievierodonetsk in Luhansk Oblast is now completely under Russian control, a senior official from Russia's Defense Ministry has said.
He said Russian forces also now controlled the nearby town of Borivske.
"As a result of successful offensive operations, units of the people's militia of the LPR (Luhansk People's Republic), with the support of Russian troops ... completely liberated the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Borivske," said Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov.
Konashenkov said LPR fighters were also now in charge of Sievierodonetsk's Azot chemical plant, where Ukrainian troops had tried to establish a point of resistance.
He made no mention of what had happened to the hundreds of civilians also sheltering at the plant.
Ukrainian officials said earlier in the day that their troops had pulled out from Sievierodonetsk following intense fighting with regular Russian troops and fighters from the self-proclaimed LPR, an entity ruled by Russian-backed separatists who have been fighting Kyiv since 2014.
The fall of the city means that Russia now controls almost the whole of the Luhansk Oblast in the eastern Donbas region of Ukraine.
Ukraine's largest LGBTQ rights event, KyivPride, has taken place jointly with Warsaw's annual Equality Parade owing to restrictions imposed in Ukraine amid Russia's invasion.
Tens of thousands of people marched through the center of the Polish capital, with blue-and-yellow Ukrainian flags waving alongside the rainbow flags symbolizing LGBTQ social movements.
Some participants chanted "Slava Ukraini'' — glory to Ukraine.
Negative attitudes to the LGBTQ people are widespread in both countries, but activists say the fact that many people from the community have signed up to fight the Russian invasion of Ukraine could help break down prejudices.
Poland's ruling nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party in particular takes a highly conservative line on LGBTQ rights, seeing the community as a threat to the values of the Catholic Church.
But the mayor of Warsaw, Rafal Trzaskowski, from the opposition Civic Platform, supported the parade and took part in it himself.
Kyrylo Budanov, head of Ukraine's Defense Intelligence of the Ministry of Defense, has told Reuters he believes Ukraine can only achieve a victory against Russia through military force.
"The strategy is very simple: Stabilize the situation. Receive the required amount of equipment and prepare the required amount of forces and means to start the counteroffensive to return all our territory," he said.
"We shouldn't wait for a miracle that they will tire and stop wanting to fight and so on. We will win back our territory as a result of our counteroffensive," Budanov said.
Buildings and infrastructure at a nuclear research facility in the northeastern city of Kharkiv has been damaged by Russian shelling, Ukraine's State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate says, according to Reuters news agency.
The inspectorate said in an online post that the area housing nuclear fuel had not been affected but that shelling by Russian troops meant there was a high probability of new damage that could be deleterious to nuclear safety.
Reuters said it could not independently verify the account on the incident.
After initial heavy bombardment in the first months of Russia's invasion, Kharkiv, Ukraine's second-largest city, had a few weeks of relative calm before shelling recently resumed.
Russia is drawing on reservists to replenish its forces in eastern Ukraine, the head of Ukraine's military intelligence has told Reuters news agency.
Kyrylo Budanov said Russia was using its reserve forces rather than openly declaring a mobilization to avoid awkward questions arising for President Vladimir Putin.
"They really fear this — this is the main reason why the mobilization is happening in a hidden way, particular by using (reservists)," he said.
The Kremlin has always denied that it is waging war in Ukraine, instead calling its invasion a "special military operation" and imposing penalties on anyone calling it otherwise.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has told his Belarusian counterpart Alexander Lukashenko that Russia will hand overIskander-M tactical missile systems to Belarus within the next months.
The Iskander-M system can use ballistic and cruise missiles and is nuclear-capable. It has a range of up to 500 km (300 miles).
Putin made the announcement at a meeting with Lukashenko in St. Petersburg.
Although Belarus is a Russian ally, it is not officially involved in Moscow's invasion of Ukraine. However, its territory has reportedly been used as a base for firing missiles into Ukraine and Russian troops have entered Ukraine from it.
On Saturday, Ukraine's northern military command said 20 rockets were "fired from the territory of Belarus and from the air" at the village of Desna in the northern Chernigiv region.
The mayor of Sievierodonetsk said Russian forces had fully occupied the eastern Ukrainian city, which has witnessed relentless bombing and intense fighting in recent weeks.
"The city is now under the full occupation of Russia," Mayor Oleksandr Stryuk said on national television, according to Reuters. "They are trying to establish their own order, as far as I know they have appointed some kind of commandant," he added.
Earlier today, Stryuk said Ukrainian troops had "almost left" the city after they were ordered to withdraw.
Capturing Sievierodonetsk brings Moscow closer to taking full control of Luhansk, an administrative division in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.
It would also allow Russia to divert its forces to conquer the cities of Kramatorsk and Slovyansk further west in its attempt to occupy the entire Donbas.
Russian "precision strikes" have killed "up to 80" Polish fighters and destroyed numerous combat vehicles and other equipment in eastern Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry has said.
The ministry added that hundreds of Ukrainian troops and foreign mercenaries as well as dozens of heavy weapons were destroyed in the space of a day in Mykolaiv, a Black Sea city in southern Ukraine.
The claims could not be independently verified. Russian officials did not say anything about when the strikes took place.
Russia describes foreign volunteers fighting with Ukrainian forces as "mercenaries."
Russia's condemnation of the EU granting candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova exposes Moscow's weakness, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said.
"After decades of lost policies based on aggression, coercion and lack of respect, all that Russia can do now is to spit threats against other states," he wrote on Twitter. "All it does is show Russia's weakness."
"We are by the side of the government and the people of our friend Moldova in the face of renewed threats coming from Moscow," he added.
After the EU granted official candidate status to Ukraine and Moldova on Thursday, Russia's Foreign Ministry condemned the decision as a move to "contain Russia" geopolitically and warned of negative consequences.
Russian troops and allies have entered Lysychansk and street fighting is underway to take control of the eastern Ukrainian city, pro-Moscow separatists said.
The claim could not be independently verified.
Lysychansk lies next to Sievierodonetsk, which has been the site of fierce fighting involving heavy artillery between Russian and Ukrainian forces for weeks.
On Saturday, the mayor of Sievierodonetsk said Ukrainian troops had "almost left" the city after they were ordered to withdraw.
Capturing Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk would mark a major success for Moscow in its efforts to conquer Luhansk, an administrative division in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.
Dmitry Rogozin, chief of the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos, said Saturday that Lithuania has called "its own borders into question" amid the Kaliningrad row.
He told Russian television that Russia would recognize Lithuania's border if Lithuania allowed the transfer of goods to the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.
As an EU member, Lithuania banned the rail transfer of some goods to Kaliningrad last week as a result of EU sanctions on Russia.
"Lithuania has not only shot itself in the leg with this, but in the head," Rogozin added.
Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said that Russian forces were trying to block the city of Lysychansk in the eastern Ukrainian region of Donbas.
A day earlier, Haidai said that Ukrainian forces weren't using the Bakhmut-Lysychansk highway because it has been heavily bombed and Ukrainian troops were receiving supplies via an alternative route.
Ukraine's military also said on Saturday that Russian forces were encircling the Lysychansk area, and trying to blockade Lysychansk city from the south.
But the Ukrainian General Staff claimed Ukrainian troops have pushed back Russian forces from towns along a supply route to Lysychansk.
In their daily report, the General Staff said Ukrainian troops blocked Russian forces from Volodymyrivka and Pokrovske — towns along a key supply road linking Lysychansk with Bakhmut to the southwest.
Russian forces have been aiming to take complete control of the region by trying to capture Lysychansk and nearby Sievierodonetsk, where intense fighting for weeks ultimately forced Ukrainian forces on Friday to withdraw from the city to regroup and re-strategize.
The Ukrainian retreat from Sievierodonetsk is significant because it only leaves Lysychansk of the Luhansk province under Ukrainian control.
95% of the Luhansk region is under Russian control. Along with Donetsk, it makes up the Donbas in eastern Ukraine. Seizing all of Donbas is essential for President Putin to be able to declare military victory at home.
Russia came down heavily on military sites in western and northern Ukraine with dozens of missiles targeting these locations on Saturday. This was confirmed by local Ukrainian officials.
The small town of Desna in the north came under "massed" rocket strikes causing "infrastructure damage" but no casualties, according to the Chernihiv governor Vyacheslav Chaus. Desna is home to a training center for Ukraine's infantry forces.
Russian strikes on a military target killed at least one soldier in the Zhytomyr region in the north of Ukraine. The region's governor Vitaliy Bunechko said that "nearly 30 missiles were launched at one military infrastructure facility."
Maxim Kozytskyi, the governor of the Lviv in western Ukraine, said in a video that six missiles were fired from the Black Sea at the Yavoriv base. Four of these hit the base, while two were intercepted and destroyed, according to Kozytskyi.
Meanwhile, Ukraine's intelligence service said airstrikes on the northern Ukrainian border region were coming from Berlarus.
"Today's strike is directly linked to Kremlin efforts to pull Belarus as a co-belligerent into the war in Ukraine," the Ukrainian intelligence service said on Telegram.
Russia launched artillery and airstrikes on Sievierodonetsk and nearby Lysychansk in the Luhansk region respectively, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said on Telegram on Saturday.
He added that Russian artillery fire had struck the Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk, and nearby villages of Synetsky, Pavlograd, and others were shelled.
Haidai did not mention any figures of casualties at the chemical plant, where hundreds of civilians are believed to have taken shelter from fighting in the region.
He added that 17 people were evacuated on Friday from Lysychansk by police officers, rescuers, and volunteers.
The British Defense Ministry said in its regular intelligence report that the Russian high command has likely removed several generals from key operational roles in the war in Ukraine.
The new commander of the Southern Group of Forces (SGF), which plays a central role in Russia's offensive in the eastern Donbas region, is likely to be Colonel General Sergei Surovikin, according to the military update.
For over thirty years, Surovikin's career has been dogged with allegations of corruption and brutality, the update said.
DW's correspondent in Kyiv, Nick Connolly, explained that the Ukrainian strategy is to make "Russians pay as high a price as possible for the smallest possible gains, similar to what we saw in Mariupol, where you make them fight for every street, for every meter of ground."
Mariupol, which became a symbol of Ukrainian resitance to Russian assault, fell in May after nearly three months of intense fighting.
Connolly said that while the Ukrainian retreat from Sievierodonetsk was a big deal, it was not "unexpected" since Ukraine has to "choose its battles carefully and to use what little equipment it has cleverly as possible."
"Remaining in positions smashed to pieces over many months just for the sake of staying there does not make sense," Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said on Ukrainian television after troops were ordered to move to new positions.
Haidai tweeted on Friday that troops would "move away from the city, to new, more fortified positions."
Canada's minister of international development, Harjit Sajjan, told DW that Russian President Vladimir Putin "needs to be held accountable" for the suffering he has caused by blocking food exports from Ukraine.
"Vladimir Putin's war has not only caused needless suffering for the Ukrainian population but is now creating famine for the developing world," the minister said.
Sajjan also said he understood the anger of developing nations whose populations were going hungry because grain supplies from Ukraine were not reaching them.
"This is the sole responsibility of Vladimir Putin. He is purposely blocking access to food, purposely allowing people to die, and this is wrong, and he needs to be held accountable," Sajjan said.
Ukraine has ordered the withdrawal of its troops from the battleground twin city of Sievierodonetsk, where Russian forces have slowly advanced over the last several weeks, Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said on Friday.
"Ukrainian armed forces will have to retreat from Sievierodonetsk. They have received an order to do so," the governor of the region, which includes the city, said on Telegram.
According to Haidai, Ukrainian troops repelled the Russian attack on Lysyhansk, the last major city in the Luhansk region under Ukrainian control.
In his nightly address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Ukrainians should appreciate and be proud of the country's EU candidate status.
Ukraine's domestic security agency, the State Security Service (SBU), said it had uncovered a Russian spy network involving Ukrainian lawmaker Andriy Derkach.
The foreign ministers of the G7 blamed Russia for worsening the global hunger crisis and called on Moscow to unblock the Ukrainian Black Sea ports for food exports.
However, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the war in Ukraine was not to blame for the global food crisis and pointed instead to sanctions the West had placed on Russia for invading its neighbor. The sanctions, however, contain exceptions to allow food to reach international markets.
The European Union's decision on Thursday to grant official EU candidate status to Ukraine was a "domestic" one and unlikely to worsen Moscow's already bad relations with the bloc, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov has told reporters.
Russia might completely cut off its supply of gas to Germany, leading to shortages and significant price rises, according to the chief of the German Federal Network Agency, the body that regulates energy markets.
rm, dh/sms (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)