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Russia tightens its hold on a Ukrainian city and accuses the United States of sending rockets

Image: Reuters Berita 24 English -  On Thursday, Russian soldiers attempted to extend and cement their control over Ukraine's industria...

Image: Reuters

Berita 24 English -  On Thursday, Russian soldiers attempted to extend and cement their control over Ukraine's industrial city of Sievierodonetsk, getting closer to claiming a major victory in their eastern Donbas offensive.

However, the US announced a $700 million arms package for Kyiv, which will include modern rocket systems with a range of up to 80 kilometers, in a boost for Ukraine, which is involved in a grueling battle against Russia's invading troops (50 miles).

The US has been accused of adding "fuel to the fire" by Russia. The provision of rocket launchers, according to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, raises the prospect of a "third country" being drawn into the fight.

Ukraine had committed not to deploy the systems to shoot targets within Russia, according to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken. President Joe Biden hopes that extending Ukraine's artillery range will encourage Russia to negotiate a cease-fire in the war, which will enter its 100th day on Friday.

Russian troops were inching forward through city streets after days of severe battle around Sievierodonetsk, much of which had been razed by Russian artillery. According to Ukraine, over 70% of the city is under Russian control, with Russian forces stationed in the city center.

"The enemy is conducting assault operations in the settlement of Sievierodonetsk," the general staff of Ukraine's armed forces stated on Thursday, adding that Russian soldiers were also attacking in the east and northeast.

According to other officials, at least four civilians were killed and ten were injured in the east and northeast.

Russia denies that civilians are being targeted.

If Russia fully occupies Sievierodonetsk and its smaller twin Lysychansk on the west bank of the Siverskyi Donets river, it will control the entire province of Luhansk, one of two in the Donbas that Moscow claims on behalf of separatists.

Russia controlled most of the city, which had a population of roughly 101,000 before the war, according to the British defence ministry's daily intelligence briefing, and Ukrainian forces had demolished bridges over the river to Lysychansk.

Capturing all of Luhansk would achieve one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's key objectives and solidify a shift in battlefield momentum following his forces' retreat from Kyiv and northern Ukraine.


Serhiy Gaidai, the regional governor of Luhansk, told Reuters that residents were seeking refuge from Russian attacks beneath a chemical facility in Sievierodonetsk, which he said was struck by an air strike on Tuesday, unleashing a big pink cloud.

"There are citizens in bomb shelters, and there are a lot of them," Gaidai stated. The account could not be independently verified by Reuters.

According to Gaidai, about 15,000 people remained in the city.

Gaidai has warned that Ukrainian troops stationed in Sievierodonetsk may be compelled to evacuate to Lysychansk, which he claims is easier to defend due to its hilltop location.

On February 24, Putin dispatched troops across the border in what he described as a "special military operation" to disarm and "denazify" Ukraine. The West has imposed tough sanctions on Russia in an attempt to strangle its economy, which Ukraine and its supporters term a bogus excuse for a war of aggression.

Since the invasion began, thousands of people have been slain in Ukraine, with millions more displaced.

Amid concerns about the war's worldwide consequences, Ukraine's grain dealers' organization predicted that this year's wheat harvest will fall to 19.2 million tonnes, down from a record 33 million in 2021.

Russia and Ukraine produce roughly a third of the world's wheat, and Russia is also a major fertilizer exporter, while Ukraine is a major corn and sunflower oil producer.

On Thursday, Biden will meet with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg in Washington. Stoltenberg told reporters that a meeting with Swedish, Finnish, and Turkish officials would be held in Brussels soon to discuss Turkey's resistance to Sweden and Finland joining NATO.


According to officials, the new US package includes ammo, counter-fire radars, air surveillance radars, extra Javelin anti-tank missiles, and anti-armour weapons, in addition to the powerful rocket systems known as HIMARS.

The decision to hand over the missile systems to Ukraine was decided after Washington received guarantees from Kyiv that they would not be used to hit targets within Russian territory, potentially widening the conflict.

Ukraine has been looking for M270 and M142 HIMARS Multiple Rocket Launch Systems to give additional firepower at a longer range to attack Russian units far beyond the front lines.

According to the Pentagon, the United States would first give Ukraine with four HIMARS systems.

The latest supplies are in addition to equipment worth billions of dollars, such as drones and anti-aircraft missiles. Three sources informed Reuters that the Biden administration planned to sell Ukraine four MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones that can be outfitted with Hellfire missiles for battlefield use against Russia.

The supplies, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, will not inspire Ukraine's authorities to resume stalled peace talks.

Separately, US Cyber Command Director Paul Nakasone said that the US has supported Ukraine with "offensive, defensive, and information" cyber operations. In comments to Sky News, he gave no specifics.

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