As a relentless artillery battle for control of eastern Ukraine rages on, many civilians are trapped in surrounding towns with diminishing opportunities to escape, as the West ramps up arms supplies in support of Kiev. This week, Germany pledged to deliver 15 Gepard anti-aircraft guns by July, France pledged six more howitzers, and the United States offered another $1 billion in military aid. But Ukrainian defense officials have repeatedly stressed that they have received only 10 to 15 percent of the weapons they need to fend off the Russian invasion.
Here are updates from around the country:
Severodonetsk: About 10,000 civilians are trapped in the largest city in the Luhansk region, making it difficult for the United Nations to provide humanitarian and evacuation assistance, UN crisis coordinator Amin Awad told France 24 on Friday. “Severodonetsk is already a Mariupol,” said he, referring to the battered southern coastal city that fell to Russian hands in May. An agreement from both Russia and Ukraine to cease fire is needed to allow the United Nations to help civilians trapped in the crosshairs of combat, he added. According to US military analysts, Russian forces continue their ground attacks in and around this strategic eastern city, but have not taken control. The regional governor told CNN that more than 560 people are trapped at the Azot chemical plant, 38 of them children. Evacuation is impossible given the intense Russian shelling, he added.
Lysychansk: At least four people have been killed in two Russian airstrikes in the city, a local official said Thursday. Lysychansk borders Severodonetsk and is likely to become Russia’s next military target. The city prepares for street fighting as Russian troops continue to bomb Severodonetsk, across a river.
Kharkiv area: Russian forces continue to launch ground attacks northeast of Ukraine’s second-largest city to push Ukrainian troops away from occupied borders near the Russian border, the Institute for the Study of War reported. The Washington-based think tank added Thursday that no major area has changed hands.
snake island: The United States has confirmed a Ukrainian claim that it hit a Russian tugboat. “The Black Sea Fleet tugboat ‘Vasiliy Bekh’ was hit in the Black Sea while transporting munitions, weapons and personnel from the Black Sea Fleet to Snake Island,” the Ukrainian Navy said. tweeted friday† Satellite images show that Russia continues to strengthen Snake Island to secure its defenses in the Black Sea, where a Russian naval blockade has halted Ukrainian grain exports.