Ukraine War: Five Important Developments to Know for Saturday

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1. Russian forces shell last Ukrainian stronghold in key town

Russian forces are shelling the town of Lysychansk and its surroundings in an all-out attempt to seize the last stronghold of resistance in Luhansk province in eastern Ukraine, the governor said on Saturday.

Ukrainian fighters have spent weeks trying to defend the city and prevent it from falling to Russia, as neighboring Sievierodonetsk did a week ago. Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces had taken control of an oil refinery on the outskirts of Lysychansk in recent days, but Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said fighting for the facility continued .

Separatists backed by the Russian army said on Saturday they had “completely” surrounded Lysychansk, the last major city in the Lugansk region controlled by the Ukrainian army.

It is the twin of that of Severodonetsk, conquered last week by Moscow after the withdrawal of Ukrainian forces after a battle of several weeks. The two towns are separated by the Donets River. The capture of Lyssytchansk would allow the Russian army to then advance towards Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, two other large cities in the industrial region of Donbass, which Moscow is seeking to conquer.

Read more in our story here.

2. The United States promises more military aid to Ukraine

The United States announced that it would provide Ukraine with $820 million (786 million euros) in new military aid, including new surface-to-air missile systems and counter-artillery radars to respond to Russia’s heavy reliance on long-range strikes during the war.

In recent days, Russia has launched dozens of missiles across Ukraine and pinned down Ukrainian forces with continuous fire for sometimes hours at a time. Ukrainian leaders have publicly called on Western allies to quickly send more munitions and advanced systems that will help them close the equipment and manpower gap.

In total, the United States has committed more than $8.8 billion in arms and military training to Ukraine, whose leaders have asked Western allies for more help to fend off larger, heavily equipped Russian forces. . About $7 billion of this aid has been announced since the Russian invasion in February.

3. Two British men captured by Russian-backed separatists

Two British volunteers have been “captured” by Russian soldiers in Ukraine, according to Russian state media, and confirmed by a UK-based charity.

“Two British citizens, working as volunteers unrelated to us but known to us, Paul Urey (b. 1977) and Dylan Healy (b. 2000), were “captured by the Russian army on Monday at a checkpoint in Ukraine “said Dominik. Byrne, one of the founders of the NGO Presidium Network, said in a statement.

According to Presidium, they disappeared while driving to help evacuate a woman and two children to Dniprorudna in the southern region of Zaporozhia. Last contact was at 4am.

After their arrest, the woman’s house ‘was stormed by armed Russian soldiers’ and they ‘made her husband lie on the floor and asked her how she knew about these British spies’ , said Mr. Byrne, pointing out that the two men were humanitarian volunteers who went alone to Ukraine.

Paul Urey’s mother, Linda, said she was “extremely concerned” in a message carried by Presidium.

“We know that my son Paul and his friend who was a humanitarian aid volunteer in Ukraine were captured by the Russians,” Linda Urey said. “We want everyone’s support to bring my son home,” she said, adding that he has “type 1 diabetes and needs his insulin.”

Hailing from Manchester and Warrington in the north of England, Paul Urey is described as a family man who did not serve in the military but spent eight years in Afghanistan as a civilian contractor, while Dylan Healy worked in a hotel chain in the UK. The Presidium said it was in contact with the UK Foreign Office, which is urgently seeking information on the two nationals.

4. A Russian tanker heads for a Greek port

A Russian tanker carrying Iranian oil, which had been seized in Greece in mid-April at the request of American justice, was heading for the port of Piraeus on Saturday, according to Greek maritime authorities.

The tanker, which was in Karystos, a port in the south of the Greek island of Euboea, left around 07:00 (04:00 GMT) in the direction of Piraeus, according to Marine Traffic, a site specializing in maritime traffic.

On April 19, Greek authorities seized the Russian tanker Pegas, renamed Lana, off the island of Euboea, under European sanctions linked to the war in Ukraine. According to reports at the time, the tanker was carrying 115,000 tons of Iranian oil.

The Greek authorities had subsequently announced that the ship and its crew would be released. But the oil was instead withheld at the request of the US Department of Justice, and a process to transfer the cargo to a US-chartered vessel was initiated.

The United States imposes economic sanctions on Iran which notably affect its oil exports.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry had requested via the International Maritime Organization (IMO) the Greek government to release the tanker while accusing the United States of “having unloaded the cargo from the ship”. In retaliation, two Greek tankers were seized by Iran. A Greek regional court had ordered on June 9 the return to Iran of the confiscated oil.

5. German regulator urges customers to prepare for gas shortages

Fearing Russia could cut natural gas supplies, the head of Germany’s energy regulator on Saturday called on residents to save energy and prepare for winter when consumption will rise.

Federal Grid Agency Chairman Klaus Mueller has urged home and apartment owners to have their gas boilers and radiators checked and adjusted to maximize their efficiency.

“Maintenance can reduce gas consumption by 10-15%,” he told Funke Mediengruppe, a German newspaper and magazine publisher.

Mueller said residents and homeowners should use the 12 weeks before cold weather sets in to prepare. He said families should start thinking now “whether every room should be set to its usual winter temperature – or whether some rooms might be a bit colder”.

The call came after Russia cut gas flows to Germany, Italy, Austria, the Czech Republic and Slovakia earlier this month as European Union countries scramble to fill storage facilities with the fuel used to generate electricity, the electrical industry and to heat homes in winter.

Russia’s state-owned energy company Gazprom has blamed a technical problem for the reduction in natural gas flowing through Nord Stream 1, a gas pipeline that runs under the Baltic Sea from Russia to Germany.

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