The 16th week of Russia’s war with Ukraine has seen Moscow’s forces launch their offensive in the east of the country as they attempt to gain full control of the Donbas.
The strategically important city of Severodonetsk, in the Luhansk region, has come under a special onslaught as Ukrainian troops try to prevent it from falling into Russian hands.
Meanwhile, Kyiv continues to call for additional heavy weapons from Western allies to strengthen defenses and avoid being outdone.
And on the diplomatic stage, Pope Francis caused controversy when he said the war was “perhaps somehow either provoked or not prevented”.
Here, Al Jazeera looks at the main events marking the 16th week of the war in Ukraine:
The governor of Luhansk, Serhiy Haidai, said that Ukrainian defense forces continued to participate in the Russian onslaught on the streets of Severdonetsk, based on Russian claims to have taken the city, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said. know. He said that Russia’s efforts to encircle the city have so far also failed and that the situation is “difficult but under control”.
Russia’s Readovka News reports that Russian forces have taken control of the Severdonetsk airport, 9 kilometers from the city, and Ukrainian defense forces are fighting from part of the Azot chemical plant in the city. Russian forces advanced to Sviatohirsk, 27 kilometers southeast of Izyum, but were unable to advance south of Lyman to capture the western bank of the Siverskyi Donets.
The Ukrainian General Staff said that the French Caesar cutters are now being effectively used in the field. The office of the president of Ukraine said that Norway had delivered 22 155mm M109 self-propelled howitzers. The United States shipped another payload of M777 155mm cannons.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said it had identified 4,253 Ukrainian civilians killed since the start of hostilities.
Turkey accepts as “reasonableA United Nations plan to export Ukrainian grain by creating a safe corridor for bulk shipments from Odesa. The plan averts Ukraine’s security concerns and Russia’s demand for sanctions relief.
Russian forces continue to try to dislodge Ukrainian defenders from their forces the last stronghold in Severdonetsk, Azot industrial zone. Ukraine’s defense forces say they are in dire need of artillery reinforcements. Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said: “If we quickly acquire long-range Western weapons, an artillery duel will begin, the Soviets will lose to the West and our defenders will be able to wipe them out. Severdonetsk for two or three days,” said Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai.
Russian forces also made another unsuccessful attempt to capture Toshkivkasouth of Severdonetsk, which would open the way for an advance on the Siverskyi Donets from the south.
Russian forces advancing from Izyum continued to attempt to defend Sviatohirsk.
Russian forces beefed up defenses in Kherson, including the use of mines. The head of Ukraine’s Zaporizhia administration, Oleksandr Starukh, reported that Russian forces in Zaporizhia received 80 new tanks last month.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister said that the Polish Crab 155mm self-propelled artillery vehicle is ready for deployment.
Russian President Vladimir Putin likens his conquest of Ukraine to The Conquest of Peter the Great about what is now northwestern Russia during the war against Sweden in 1700-1721. When Peter the Great founded St Petersburg and declared it the capital of Russia, “no country in Europe recognized this territory as belonging to Russia,” Putin said. “Everybody considers it part of Sweden. But from time immemorial, the Slavs lived there together with the Finno-Ugric peoples. Our responsibility is also to regain and strengthen. ”
Russian forces continued shelling Severdonetsk and attempted to attack Ukrainian positions in the city. The pro-Russian media agree that Ukrainian forces continue to control the highway from Severdonetsk to Lysychansk and Bakhmut. Russian forces advancing north from Popasna are shelling settlements east of Bakhmut in an attempt to gain control of the highway. The General Staff of Ukraine believes that Russia is preparing a new attack on Slovyansk.
The Ukrainian General Staff said that the Ukrainian air force carried out airstrikes on the concentration of enemy equipment in five settlements in the Kherson region, continuing the Ukrainian counter-offensive there.
Ukraine’s Southern Command says Russia has added a cruise missile submarine to the Odesa blockade force, increasing its cruise missile fleet to 40.
Ukrainian forces repel a Russian attack to gain full control of Severdonetsk. Russian sources claim 300-400 Ukrainian defenders are besieged inside the Azot chemical plant and are negotiating terms of surrender for themselves and civilians there, but Ukrainian sources claim that this was propaganda as their faction controlled a third of the city including Azot.
The UK Ministry of Defense said that Russia is trying to equip three active battalions from each brigade, extending their combat capabilities to the maximum. “Most brigades typically only commit up to two of their three battalions to active duty at a time,” the UK Department of Defense said. “Third battalions in brigades are often understaffed. Russia will likely have to rely on mobilized recruits or reservists to deploy these units to Ukraine.”
Many sources say that the Russian occupation authorities have issued the first passports to Ukrainian citizens – 23 in Kherson and 30 in Melitopol.
Russia continues to import Ukrainian products. The Luhansk Agro-Industrial Development Bureau reported that Russian forces transported 15,000 tons of sunflower seeds and 10,000 tons of grain from Luhansk oblast. It said Ukrainian manufacturers were offered 30% of the price they would get for their product in Ukraine.
Ukraine says there are 4.1 million internally displaced people.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy that Ukraine will know if it is granted candidate for membership of the European Union before June 24.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said Russian forces had destroyed a second bridge over the Siverskyi Donets river and were shelling the third bridge, in an attempt to cut off Ukrainian forces in Severdonetsk from their supply lines. This tactic shows that the Russian forces do not plan to cross the river on their own. Ukraine’s General Staff said it had withdrawn its forces from the city center.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said Russia had cut all bridges leading to Severdonetsk, making it impossible to evacuate civilians, but it was still possible to evacuate Lysychansk. The third and final bridge to be demolished is said to be old and unfit for military vehicles. Haidai denied Russia’s claim to have surrounded Ukrainian forces. Severdonetsk defenders posted a video showing them owning the power plant in the industrial park.
To the south, Ukrainian forces attacked Russian defenses on the eastern bank of the Inhulets River in Kherson District. Fighting was especially fierce around Davidov Brod.
Ukraine’s Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov told The Economist that Ukraine needs to deliver weapons faster to continue fighting Russia.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg seemed to think that Ukraine would have to accept the loss of sovereignty or territory in exchange for peace, during a news conference in Finland.
Russia earns $98 billion from fossil fuel exports in the first 100 days of the war in Ukraine. According to research by Finland’s Center for Clean Air and Energy Research (CREA), 61% of exports go to Europe. Some researchers estimate that this war is costing Russia a billion dollars a day, about the same as oil and gas income.
The Russian Ministry of Defense said will provide safe passage for civilians fleeing Severdonetsk on June 15. It said Ukraine had requested an evacuation, having destroyed the last bridge out of the city towards Ukrainian-held territory to prevent its troops from withdrawing retreat. Russia also said Ukrainian forces that had barricaded themselves in the city’s Azot chemical plant were using civilians as shields. Ukraine says Russia blew up all three bridges out of the city and that its troops are still fighting and do not need to be evacuated.
Ukraine estimates that Russia has lost 32,300 serving soldiers since the war started.
Ukrainian Air Force spokesman Yuriy Ignat said that because it was successful access denied to the airspace of Ukraine being occupied, Russia is shoot more and more low-precision cruise missiles from strategic bombers over the Black Sea. The imprecision of these weapons, plus the fact that Ukraine’s Air Defense Forces, which includes the S-300 and Buk-M1 anti-aircraft batteries, are designed to shoot down aircraft, not missiles, which means they are frequent and hit civilian infrastructure. However, Ignat said that the Air Force is increasingly successful in countering Russian missiles without further explanation.
Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense prove that it was shot down 213 of 450 military aircraft have been deployed against it since 24 February, and 178 out of 250 helicopters. However, Ignat points out, these losses are offset by deep Russian reserves.
Pope Francis caused controversy when he said that the war in Ukraine was “perhaps somehow either provoked or not prevented”.