Kyiv (Ukraine) (AFP), Jul 2 – Here are the latest developments in the war in Ukraine:
– Separatists say key city surrounded…-
Ukrainian separatists backed by Russia say they had “completely” encircled the key city of Lysychansk in the eastern Lugansk region.
“Today the Lugansk popular militia and Russian forces occupied the last strategic heights, which allows us to confirm that Lysychansk is completely encircled,” Andrei Marotchko, a spokesman for the separatist forces, tells the TASS news agency.
Capturing the city will allow the Russians to push deeper into the wider eastern region of the Donbas, which has become the focus of their offensive since failing to capture Kyiv after launching their military operation in Ukraine in late February.
– …and Kyiv denies surrounded claim –
The Ukrainian army however rejects the claims that Lysychansk has been surrounded, but says heavy fighting was ongoing on its edges.
“Fighting rages around Lysychansk. (But) luckily the city has not been encircled and is under control of the Ukrainian army,” Ruslan Muzytchuk, a spokesman for the Ukrainian National Guard, says on Ukrainian television.
– ‘Phosphorus bombs on Snake Island’ –
Ukraine’s army accuses Russia of carrying out strikes using incendiary phosphorus munitions on Snake Island, just a day after Moscow withdrew its forces from the rocky outcrop in the Black Sea.
“Russian air force SU-30 planes twice conducted strikes with phosphorus bombs on Zmiinyi island,” it says in a statement Friday, using another name for Snake Island.
The Russian defence ministry has described the retreat as “a gesture of goodwill” meant to demonstrate that Moscow will not interfere with UN efforts to organise protected grain exports from Ukraine.
– Snake Island decision ‘changes situation’: Zelensky –
Russia’s decision to abandon Snake Island “changes the situation in the Black Sea considerably”, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says.
“It does not yet guarantee security. It does not yet guarantee that the enemy will not return. But it already considerably limits the actions of the occupiers,” he says Thursday in his daily address.
A strategic target, Snake Island sits aside shipping lanes near Odessa port. Russia had attempted to install missile and air defence batteries while under fire from drones.
Britain’s Ministry of Defence says in an intelligence update that Russia has highly likely withdrawn “owing to the isolation of the garrison and its increasing vulnerability to Ukrainian strikes, rather than as a ‘gesture of good will’, as it has claimed.”
– Deadly strike on Odessa –
Missile strikes kill 21 people and wound dozens in Ukraine’s flashpoint Odessa region on the Black Sea, Sergiy Bratchuk, Odessa deputy chief of district, says.
The strikes come a day after Russian troops abandoned positions on the strategic Snake Island off the coast of Odessa.
Early Friday, the missiles hit a nine-storey apartment building and a recreation centre in Serhiivka about 80 kilometres (50 miles) south of Odessa.
Two children were among the dead and six others among the injured, officials say.
Germany condemns the attack as “inhuman and cynical.”
– Russia ‘engaging in terror’: Zelensky –
Zelensky accuses Russia of engaging in state “terror” as he blames Moscow for missile strikes on a southern resort town that left 21 dead and dozens wounded.
– More missiles, ammo for Ukraine: US –
The Pentagon announces $820 million in additional weapons and ammunition for Ukraine as it battles Russian forces along the eastern and southern fronts.
The 14th package of armaments for Ukraine forces includes two air defence systems, more ammunition for the Himars precision rocket launchers the US began supplying in June, up to 150,000 rounds of 155mm artillery ammunition, and four additional counter-artillery radars.
– Norway says $1bn in aid –
Norway announces almost a billion euros of aid to Ukraine, over two years, as Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store visits the country.
The 10 billion Norwegian crowns (960 million euros, $1 billion), which is in addition to previous aid announced by Norway, is for “humanitarian aid, reconstruction of the country, weapons and support for the functioning of the Ukrainian authorities”, the Norwegian government says in a statement.
– Turkey asked to detain ship –
Ukraine has asked Turkey to detain a Russian-flagged cargo ship that Kyiv alleged had set off from a Kremlin-occupied port.
Ukraine’s ambassador to Ankara says the Zhibek Zholy had set sail from Ukraine’s Kremlin-occupied port of Berdyansk.
“Based on instruction from the Ukrainian general prosecutor, we asked the Turkish side to take corresponding measures,” Ambassador Vasyl Bodnar says on Twitter.
“I am convinced that (Turkish) measures will prevent attempts to violate Ukraine’s sovereignty,” he says.
The Marinetraffic.com website says the 140-metre (460-foot) general cargo vessel is sailing under the Russian flag.