Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, speaking in Ankara, Turkey, June 8, 2022: “You [Ukrainians] are always so preoccupied with what you can steal and from where” (Adem Altan/Getty)


Wednesday’s Coverage: As Ukrainian POWs Moved To Russia, Moscow’s Proxy Threatens Execution of 2 UK Nationals


Source: Institute for the Study of War


UPDATE 1436 GMT:

A Ukrainian commander has described street fighting, under Russian artillery barrages endangering troops on both sides, in Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine.

Petro Kuzyk, a leader of the Svoboda national guard battalion, said:

We fight for every house and every street. Yesterday was successful for us. We went on a counterattack and in some areas we managed to push them back by one or two blocks. In others we pushed them back literally by one or two houses….

When we imposed street fighting on them, it worked for some time — they did not know where they were and where we were. But now they are simply covering both their own troops and our units with artillery fire.

On Wednesday, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said Ukrainian forces had pulled back to the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk to avoid the Russian barrage. But Kuzyk ruled out a retreat: “There is an order to hold positions and we hold them.”


UPDATE 1421 GMT:

More than 4.8 million Ukrainians have been registered across 44 European countries since the Russian invasion.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR has recorded more than 7.3m border crossings out of Ukraine and 2.3m crossings back into the country.

Women and children account for 90% of those who have fled abroad, as Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 are eligible for military service and unable to leave.


UPDATE 1412 GMT:

After a brief show trial, Russian proxy officials in eastern Ukraine have sentenced two UK nationals and a Moroccan national to death.

Aiden Aslin, Shaun Pinner, and Ibrahim Saadun were condemned on charges of “terrorism” after a three-day process in a Russian-controlled part of the Donetsk region.

Both Britons said they were serving as active-duty soldiers in the Ukrainian marines, given them protection as POWs by the Geneva Conventions. The court swept aside the legal position by convicted them on the charge of “being a mercenary”.

Aslin and Pinner have been paraded by Russia State media since their capture in Mariupol in southern Ukraine in mid-April. On Wednesday, State-run RIA Novosti showed footage of the men pleading guilty.

Analyst Monique Camarra of Kremlin File and EA’s partner Euro-6 notes:

Yesterday Denys Pushilin [the Russian proxy head of the “Donetsk People’s Republic”] let go of ALL his government people and they were replaced by Russians. So it may be that the people in Donetsk would not have gone forward with this.

Pushilin dismissed his Cabinet and installed a new “Prime Minister”, Vitaly Khotsenko, formerly a senior officials in Russia’s Trade and Industry Ministry; Alexander Kostomarov, formerly the first lieutenant governor of Russia’s Ulyanovsk region; and Evgeny Solntsev, formerly aide to the head of Russia’s Construction and Housing and Public Utilities Ministry.


UPDATE 0848 GMT:

China’s telecommunications compnay Huawei has begun closing retail outlets in Russia amid a drop in demand and a shortage of products in warehouses.

Russian State outlet RIA said four out of 19 stores have now shut and the rest are likely to soon follow.


UPDATE 0839 GMT:

Donetsk Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko says Russian forces killed four civilians and wounded 11 across the eastern Ukraine region on Wednesday.

Kyrylenko wrote on Telegram that three civilians died in the town of Kurakhove and one in Avdiivka. He claimed “four victims in Mariupol, including two children”, without specifying whether the casualties were deaths or injuries.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said four civilians were killed and six wounded yesterday amid the Russian assault on the cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.

Haidai said the Russians fired on the Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk, where about 800 civilians are sheltering.


UPDATE 0824 GMT:

In a televised address on Thursday morning, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy amplified the warning of UN Secretary General António Guterres about the “hunger and destitution” brought by Russia’s invasion, including its blockade of Ukrainian ports.

This means that, unfortunately, there may be a physical shortage of products in dozens of countries around the world. Millions of people may starve if the Russian blockade of the Black Sea continues….

While we are looking for ways to protect freedom, another person is destroying it. Another person continues to blackmail the world with hunger.


UPDATE 0734 GMT:

Russian authorities cracked down on coverage of Vladimir Putin’s war in a series of cases on Wednesday.

A Moscow court extended the detention of journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza from June 12 to August 12 on charges of spreading “false information” about the Russian military.

Andrei Soldatov, one of the leading analysts of Russian politics and intelligence services, has obtained confirmation that is on Russia’s national and international wanted list.

Last month Soldatov joined EA’s partner Euro-6 to discuss the state of Vladimir Putin, his military, and his intelligence services:

Ukraine War VideoCast: Trouble in Moscow — Putin and Russia’s Intelligence Services

Russian authorities have also filed charges against prominent fiction writer Dmitry Glukhovsky, who now lives outside the country. His “crime” was to post a video showing a tank shelling a residential building in Mariupol in southern Ukraine, with commentary criticizing the attack.


UPDATE 0725 GMT:

The US has delivered to Ukraine the first $1 billion of a $40bn military, economic, and humanitarian aid package passed by Congress in May.

The US Ambassador to Kyiv, Bridget Brink, tweeted the news on Wednesday:


UPDATE 0707 GMT:

Ukraine’s intelligence services say Russian forces are sending ominous text messages to Ukrainian servicemen calling on them to lay down their arms, surrendering or defecting to Russia.

The texts warn that the battle for Sievierodonetsk will become the “next Mariupol”, the port city in southern Ukraine levelled and overrun by Russia.


UPDATE 0654 GMT:

In his nightly address to the nation, Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy focused on the defense of Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine:

Sievierodonetsk remains the epicenter of the confrontation in Donbas. We defend our positions, inflict significant losses on the enemy.

[The] battle for Sievierodonetsk is probably one of the most difficult during this war, and in particular the fate of Donbas is being decided there.

Ukrainian forces pulled back to the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk on Wednesday after another Russian bombardment on the devastated city.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said it made no sense for Ukrainian special forces to stay inside Sievierodonetsk when Russia was levelling the area with shelling and air strikes. He said that “the fighting is still going on” and “it is impossible to say the Russians completely control the city”.

The US-based Institute for the Study of War summarized, “Ukrainian forces are continuing to conduct a flexible defense of Severodonetsk and are likely focusing on inflicting high casualties on Russian personnel rather than seeking to hold the entire city.”

An estimated 10,000 to 11,000 civiians are trapped in Sievierodonetsk, which had a pre-invasion population of about 100,000.

Haidai said the nearby city of Lysychansk is also being “totally destroyed”: “Russian shelling has intensified significantly over the past 24 hours. They are using scorched-earth tactics.”

But he asserted that, with the delivery of military assistance, the situation could soon change: “If we quickly get western long-range weapons, an artillery duel will begin, the Soviet Union [sic] will lose to the west, and our defenders will be able to clean up Sievierodonetsk in two or three days.”


ORIGINAL ENTRY: As Russia steps up its offensive in eastern Ukraine and blockades the country’s ports, UN Secretary General António Guterres warns that the invasion is “threatening to unleash an unprecedented wave of hunger and destitution, leaving social and economic chaos in its wake”.

Guterres said, as he presented the UN’s second report on the repercussions of Vladimir Putin’s “special military operations”:

The war’s impact on food security, energy and finance is systemic, severe, and speeding up….[There is] only one way to stop this gathering storm: the Russian invasion of Ukraine must end”.

The Secretary General said the UN is seeking “a package deal that allows for the safe and secure export of Ukrainian-produced food through the Black Sea, and unimpeded access to global markets for Russian food and fertilisers”.

The UN estimates that 94 countries, with a population of about 1.6bn people, are “severely exposed to at least one dimension of the crisis and unable to cope with it”.

It reiterated previous assessments of the World Food Programme that the invasion could put another 47m people into food insecurity, taking the total to 323m by the the end of 2022. Up to 58m more Africans could be impoverished this year.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said this week that about 25 million tons of grains are trapped in ports. He said the figure will rise to 75 million tons after the fall harvest.

Ukrainian officials cautioned that, even if the Russians lifted the blockade, it will take six months to clear mines and ensure safety of shipping. They added that it is only possible to move 2 million tons of grain per month by land, compared to Ukraine’s shipment of 6 million tons monthly before the invasion.

Russia’s Lavrov: We Don’t Need to Act

Guterres spoke soon after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov appeared in Ankara, purportedly to discuss a Turkish plan to lift the blockade of the Ukrainian ports.

But speaking alongside Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, he said that Moscow does not need to take any action:

We state daily that we’re ready to guarantee the safety of vessels leaving Ukrainian ports and heading for the Bosphorus Gulf. We’re ready to do that in cooperation with our Turkish colleagues.

To solve the problem, the only thing needed is for the Ukrainians to let vessels out of their ports, either by de-mining them or by marking out safe corridors, nothing more is required.

Ukrainian officials noted that Russia has also put hundreds of mines in the Black Sea and that there are no guarantees against attacks by Moscow’s warships. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Oleg Nikolenko tweeted:

Lavrov further tipped off Moscow’s lack of interest in any negotiated resolution by mocking Ukrainians over the blockade. When a Ukrainian journalist asked him about Russian thefts of grain, the Foreign Minister replied, “You are always so preoccupied with what you can steal and from where.”

As he spoke, a Russian proxy official in southern Ukraine confirmed the shipment of stolen grain to Russian-occupied Crimea.

The official said an 11-wagon train had left Melitopol, seized by the Russians in the opening days of the February 24 invasion.

Lavrov added lie to insult when he dismissed concerns, “The share of Ukrainian grain in the international market is just 1%, so the food security crisis isn’t actually stemming from this war. We cannot say this situation will cause a food crisis.”

German analysis says Ukraine’s wheat production is 11.5% of the global market.

Even Turkey’s Çavuşoğlu politely checked Lavrov, “There is a real global food crisis.”