Ukraine’s Zelenskiy says it will fight for all territory amid fierce battle in the east

  • Fierce Street Fights for Major Industrial City in the East
  • Ukrainian troops outnumbered, will not surrender -Zelenskiy
  • Eastern Front under constant shelling
  • Russian ports ready to resume grain exports – Moscow

KYIV/DRUZHKIVKA, Ukraine, June 7 (Reuters) – Ukraine will fight to regain all of its territory occupied by Russian troops, President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Tuesday as his troops struggled to hold their own in bloody street-to-street fighting in the city ​​of Sivierodonetsk.

“We’ve already lost too many people to give up our territory just like that,” Zelenskiy said via video link at an event hosted by Britain’s Financial Times newspaper. “We must achieve a complete deoccupation of our entire territory.”

Zelenskiy’s comments responded strongly to suggestions that Ukraine should cede territory to Russia to end the war, now in its fourth month.

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French President Emmanuel Macron said in a recent interview that it was important not to “humiliate” Moscow, comments that were interpreted in Ukraine as implying that it must accept some Russian demands.

Asked about Macron’s comments, Zelenskiy said: “We are not going to humiliate anyone, we are going to respond in kind.”

As he spoke, Ukrainian troops in the ruins of Sievierodonetsk tried to cling to the gains. Kiev said its forces launched a surprising counter-offensive that changed momentum there last week.

The governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Gaidai, said the defenders are struggling to fend off Russian attacks in the center of Sievierodonetsk, a small industrial town to the east.

“The Russians are trying with all their might to take Sievierodonetsk and close the highway from Lysychansk to Bakhmut,” he said in an online post. “In the regional center it is difficult to avert the attacks, but the occupiers are not in control of the city.”

Moscow said its troops are advancing. Reuters was unable to independently verify the situation on the ground.

UNDER BOMBARDMENT

The battle for Sievierodonetsk has emerged as a pivotal battle, with Russia concentrating its offensive force in hopes of achieving one of its stated goals – completely conquering the surrounding Luhansk province on behalf of separatist proxies.

Ukrainian officials had said their forces launched a surprise counterattack last week, driving the Russians out of part of the city center.

Before that, Russia appeared to be on the brink of encircling the Ukrainian garrison at Luhansk, trying to close off the main road to Sievierodonetsk and its sister city Lysychansk across the Siverskiy Donets River.

Gaidai said in his post that Lysychansk was constantly bombed.

Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, saying it aimed to “disarm” and “denazify” the country. Ukraine and its western backers say Russia has started an unprovoked war to gain territory.

Russia’s forces were defeated on the outskirts of the capital Kiev in March and since then it has regrouped and mounted an attack on the east, demanding Kiev lose its territorial claim to the Crimean peninsula that Moscow annexed in 2014, and claims of its separatist proxies. in Luhansk and Donetsk, the southeastern provinces collectively known as the Donbas.

Russia is pushing from three main directions – east, north and south – to try to encircle the Ukrainians in the Donbas.

In Druzhkivka, in the Ukrainian-occupied area of ​​Donetsk province, residents searched the wreckage of houses destroyed by the latest shelling.

Nadezhda took a pink children’s photo album and a kindergarten book from the ruins of her house and put them on a shelf that somehow still stood in the rubble.

“I don’t even know where to start. I’m standing here watching, but I have no idea what to do. I start to cry, I calm down, and then I cry again.”

‘TIME TO LEAVE’

Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kyrylenko told Ukrainian television that there was constant shelling along the front lines, with Russia trying to penetrate into Sloviansk and Kramatorsk, the two largest Ukrainian cities in Donetsk.

Attempts were made to evacuate the remaining residents, he said: “People now understand, although it is late, that it is time to leave.”

Ukraine’s second city, Kharkiv, was also hit by shelling early on Tuesday, and the local mayor said one person was killed. The northeastern city was heavily bombed in the first two months of the war, but had calmed down in recent weeks after Russian forces withdrew to the region.

Viacheslav Shulga, an employee of a pizzeria in northern Kharkiv that was hit, said there were hopes the restaurant could reopen soon after its closure at the start of the war.

“Everything has been destroyed. We are removing equipment, there are no cases here for the time being,” he said. “It’s sad that so much effort went into it. But someone else decided our fate.”

WAREHOUSE DESTROYED

Ukraine is one of the world’s largest grain exporters and Western countries accuse Russia of creating the risk of global famine by closing Ukraine’s Black Sea ports.

The governor of the region that included the port of Mykolaiv said weekend shelling had destroyed warehouses in one of the country’s largest agricultural goods terminals. read more

Moscow denies responsibility for the international food crisis and blames Western sanctions.

Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said the Russian-occupied Ukrainian ports of Berdyansk and Mariupol are ready to resume grain exports. Ukraine says such shipments from territory seized by Moscow would amount to illegal looting.

Zelenskiy said Kiev was gradually receiving “specific anti-ship systems”, the best way to break a Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports.

The Kremlin said that in order to resume exports from Ukrainian ports, Kiev must first clear the mines. Russia would then be able to inspect ships and escort them into international waters, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

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Reporting by Reuters; Written by Peter Graff and Alex Richardson; Editing by Gareth Jones and Mark Heinrich

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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