Ukraine war live: Fierce street battles rage in key eastern Ukraine cities

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Relatives mourn during a funeral service for Army Col. Oleksander Makhachek in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, Friday, June 3, 2022.

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Copyright 
Natacha Pisarenko/Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved

Thousands dead. Millions displaced. Whole cities lying in ruins. 

The war in Ukraine, which passed its 100 day anniversary Friday, is now one of the bloodiest conflicts to shake Europe in decades. 

With the rhetoric hardening on both sides, Ukrainian fighters on the ground continue to battle Russian forces in the country’s east amid their continuing offensive. This is a war that shows no sign of stopping.

Follow our live updates below. 

10:19

Key points

    Russia has been accused of playing ‘hunger games’ with the world over Ukrainian wheat exports.Fighting continues to rage in two key eastern Ukrainian cities, Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.Ukrainian forces are ‘pushing Russia back’ in Severodonetsk city, claims regional governor.A centuries-old Orthodox monastery has caught on fire near the frontline in Ukraine. Both sides blame each other. United Nations head renewed calls for peace in Ukraine. The Ukraine war marked its 100th day anniversary Friday. 

16:46

Flames engulf famous Ukrainian monastery caught up in war

 A famous wooden monastery in eastern Ukraine, known as the Sviatohirsk Lavra, has caught on fire, as fighting rages in the area. 

A Ukrainian government tweet shows the old Orthodox monastery in one piece, accompanying a photo of it ablaze. 

“As a result of hostilities, a large-scale fire broke out on the territory of the All Saints Hermitage of the Holy Dormition Sviatohirsk Lavra,” the Ukrainian Orthodox Church says on its website. “The flames engulfed the main shrine of the monastery.”

The monastery is affiliated with the Moscow Patriarchate, which is run by Patriarch Kirill, an ally of President Vladimir Putin and supporter of the Russian military.

The Ukrainian government tweet alleges that Russian forces killed four monks there on 30 May. Euronews cannot independently verify this claim.

Russia’s Defense Ministry has alleged that Ukrainian nationalists set fire to the monastery as they retreated from Svyatogorsk, reports the state-affiliated TASS news agency. Again this cannot be verfied

A Ukrainian army officer, Yurii Kochevenko, posted a photo of the burning monastery on Facebook, with the caption: “Another crime of Russian barbarians for whom there is nothing sacred.”

The monastery stands on cliffs by the Siverskyi Donets river. Russian troops have tried repeatedly to cross the river, aiming to encircle the Ukrainian army. Sviatohirsk lies just north of Slovyansk, a city held by the Ukrainians.

The monastery dates back centuries and was closed by the Communists in the last century, but was reopened in 1992 after the Soviet Union’s collapse.

15:34

15:25

Ukraine minister: Azov fighters ‘will end up here in Kyiv’

The Ukrainian Interior Minister has said Ukraine is “doing everything it can” to bring soldiers of the Azov regiment, who were taken captive when the southern city of Mariupol fell, back home.   

“We all know that they will end up here, in Kyiv, and we are doing everything to make it happen,” said Interior Minister Denys Monastyrskyy Saturday on Telegram. 

Ukrainian intelligence agents are communicating with Azov regiment servicemen, who withstood a gruelling Russian siege at the city’s steel works for several weeks, before being captured. 

“It is through them that we learn more about their living conditions, food, and possibilities for their release,” Monastyrskyy added in the post. 

A huge question mark has hung over the heads of the Ukrainian fighters. 

After the sprawling Avoz Steel plant was captured by Russian forces, they were taken to territory controlled by Moscow-backed separatists in Ukraine. 

Ukraine has called for a prisoner swap but some in Russia – including the deputy foreign minister – have said they should be put on trial.

Read more about how the wives and partners of the Avoz fighters fared during the siege below. 

Azov wives: ‘This is not a reality show. The truth is horrible’

14:34

‘Our forces are pushing them back’ in Severodonetsk, says Ukrainian regional governor

The governor of the Lugansk region, Sergiï Gaïdaï, has said Ukrainian forces are repelling Russia’s army in the strategic Severodonetsk city in a Saturday interview. 

“Initial information indicates that they have succeeded in taking control of most of the city. But our forces are pushing them back now,” he said. 

Gaïdaï continued that Russia had engaged all of its available forces in the struggle over the key city in the prized eastern Ukrainian Donbas region. 

“The situation in the whole region is extremely difficult. The fighting is currently concentrated in Severodonetsk because, from what we have been able to understand, the Russian army has thrown all its weight and reserves” into this battle, said the governor.

Moscow is currently concentrating all of its forces in the Donbas region in a bid to secure Severodonetsk, one of the last unoccupied cities in the region. 

Capturing the city would allow Russia to secure its hold on the Donbas, a industrial region partially occupied by pro-Russian separatists since 2014.

(AFP)

14:19An Ukrainian serviceman mourns during the a funeral of Army Col. Oleksander Makhachek in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, Friday, June 3, 2022. According to combat comrades Makhachek was killed fighting Russian forces when a shell landed in his position on May 30. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)11:55

NATO chief has ‘constructive’ dialogue with Turkey about Finland-Sweden membership

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg spoke to Turkey’s president Friday, in a push to allay Turkish resistance to Finland and Sweden joining the alliance.

Stoltenberg said he had a “constructive phone call” with Erdogan, calling Turkey a “valued ally” and praising Turkish efforts to broker a deal to ensure the safe transportation of grain supplies from Ukraine amid global food shortages caused by Russia’s invasion. 

He tweeted that he and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would continue their dialogue, without elaborating.

Turkey has said it will block Sweden and Finland’s bids to join the 30-strong defensive alliance, claiming the Scandinavian pair are supporting Kurdish militants Turkey considers terrorists. 

Erdogan’s office released a statement in which it said the president had emphasised that Sweden and Finland should “make it clear that they have stopped supporting terrorism,” have lifted defence export restrictions on Turkey and are “ready to show alliance solidarity.”

The Nordic states, among other countries, imposed limitations on arms sales in the wake of Turkey’s 2019 military incursion into northern Syria. 

Later on Friday, Stoltenberg met with Finland’s prime minister, where they discussed “the need to address Turkey’s concerns and move forward” with the Finnish and Swedish membership applications.

(AP)

11:32

Switzerland refuses to transfer arms and armoured vehicles to Ukraine

Switzerland said Friday it would not allow Swiss war material to be sent to Ukraine, in keeping with the country’s historic policy of neutrality. 

However, it said assembly elements or spare parts of war material can still happen, if the manufactured items are likely to be sent to Ukraine, the Swiss Federal Council said. 

Both Germany and Denmark have requested arms and armoured vehicles, the government in Bern said in a statement.

Germany wants around 12,400 pieces of Swiss-made 35mm ammunition for Guepard-type anti-aircraft tanks, besides Piranha III  tanks.

Denmark’s request is for 22 Piranha III tanks produced in Switzerland.

“Since the export of war material from Switzerland to Ukraine cannot be authorised because of the equal treatment resulting from the law of neutrality (…) it is not possible to respond favourably to the requests from Germany and Denmark for the transfer of war material to Ukraine,” the Council said.

(AFP)

Ukrainian soldiers ride in the back of a truck to a resting place after fighting on the front line. (Yasuyoshi CHIBA/AFP).10:13

Fierce fighting rages on in two key eastern Ukrainian cities

Gritty street-by-street, house-by-house fighting continued in two important eastern Ukraine cities Friday, on the 100th day of the war. 

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said fierce battles were raging in Sievierodonetsk, where some 13,000 residents took shelter in basements to escape relentless Russian bombardment.

Ukrainian forces reclaimed 20 per cent of city terrain that had been taken by Russian troops, he added later.

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Thursday that there had been “some progress” in the battle for Sievierodonetsk but gave no specific details.

Haidai said Russian forces were also pummeling the neighbouring city of Lysychansk.

Some 20,000 residents remain there — about one-fifth of Lysychansk’s prewar population — even though Russian shelling has shattered 60 per cent of the residential buildings and civilian infrastructure, authorities said. 

Both cities are slowly grinding to rubble amidst the fighting. 

Russian forces have been trying to capture the strategic Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, as they are the only two cities in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk province it does not control. 

Luhansk and Donetsk provinces make up the Donbas, an eastern industrial region of Ukraine that Russia wants to capture. 

Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia now controls more than 90 per cent of Luhansk and is likely to take it over completely in the next two weeks.

But Haidai said progress made in the past two days shows that Ukraine may be able to hold off the Russian advance for that duration.

This would allow enough time for new, advanced Western weapons to reach Ukrainian hands.

Russia controls almost one-fifth of the country, Zelenskyy said this week. But the president remained defiant in a video message marking 100 days of war.

“We have defended Ukraine for 100 days already,” he said. “Victory will be ours.”

(AP)

09:59Children play in a public fountain in front of the Opera house in Lviv, Ukraine, Thursday, June 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco)Relatives mourn during a funeral service for Army Col. Oleksander Makhachek in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, Friday, June 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko)Destroyed library in the school where a graduation ceremony, called the Last School Bell, was supposed to take place in Kharkiv, Ukraine, Thursday, June 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Andrii Marienko)

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