Russian forces declared full control of the strategic city of Severodonetsk in eastern Ukraine, at a time when Ukrainian forces withdrew from the city, while 40 countries searched in Berlin for a solution to the global food crisis exacerbated by the Russian-Ukrainian war.
Early on Saturday morning, Al-Jazeera correspondent reported hearing 4 explosions in the middle of the Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine.
Al-Jazeera correspondent, quoting the governor of Lugansk Province, Sergey Gaidai, stated that the Ukrainian army forces in Severodonetsk had received orders to withdraw to more fortified places, without specifying a timetable for this withdrawal, or whether it would take place in agreement with the Russian side.
Gaidai added that the Russian forces have been bombing the city for about 4 months on a daily basis, and that 90% of its houses were damaged as a result of the continuous bombardment.
The Ukrainian withdrawal from Severodonetsk followed weeks of shelling and fighting with Russian and separatist forces in the city’s streets.
Ukrainian officials said on Friday that Russian forces had completely occupied a town about 10 kilometers south of Severodonetsk, as they came close to taking control of the last Ukrainian-controlled territory in Lugansk.
The separatists in Lugansk said that their forces control the towns of “Zolotoy” and “Gorskoy” southwest of the city of Lysechansk, adjacent to Severodonetsk, and the separatists added that the Ukrainian forces who were trapped in a small enclave south of Lysechansk were eliminated, they said.
The Ukrainian Army Staff Command stated that its forces were able to stop the Russian attack on the southern outskirts of the city of Lysichansk, and confirmed that the attackers had suffered heavy losses and forced them to retreat.
Russian forces and separatist forces are trying to besiege the city of Lysichansk. On Friday, Russian forces took control of the town of Hersk, south of the city. The governor of Lugansk said that the city of Mykolaivka, about 20 km southwest of Lysechansk, had come into the hands of the Russian army.
Russia began its war on Ukraine on February 24, but it gave up its early advance towards the capital, Kyiv, after facing fierce resistance backed by Western weapons. Since then, Moscow and allied separatists have focused on the battles along the front line in the south and in the eastern Donbass region, made up of the Lugansk and Donetsk provinces.
On the other hand, the US Department of Defense (Pentagon) said that the second batch of US “Himars” missile launchers will arrive in Ukraine next month, after Kyiv began using the first batch of these launchers, which have a range of up to 80 kilometers.
US President Joe Biden stated that the missile launchers delivered to Kiev “will make it possible to more accurately hit key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine”, with Kyiv stressing that they will not be used “to strike the Russian territory”.
On Friday, a senior US defense official said Russia was trying unsuccessfully to block Western weapons flowing into Ukraine, including longer-range missile systems that Kyiv hopes will be decisive on the battlefield.
Moscow and NATO
In a related context, the Russian Foreign Ministry warned on Friday that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) is on the brink of a direct armed conflict with Russia, and Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said at a press conference that the approach taken by NATO countries in the midst of the Ukrainian crisis brings it to the brink of a conflict. Armed conflict with Russia.
Zakharova denied her country’s intention to use nuclear weapons, saying that Russia’s use of nuclear weapons is based only on the logic of deterrence.
The Russian official’s statement came after a previous statement by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Friday, in which he said that Russia has become a direct threat to the security and values of the alliance countries.
Stoltenberg called for keeping channels of communication with Moscow open so that misunderstanding does not lead to uncontrollable reactions, adding that the war in Ukraine is brutal, but the war between NATO and Russia will be worse.
On the other hand, the American magazine “Foreign Policy” reported that lawmakers from the two American parties submitted a draft resolution on Friday describing Russia’s actions in Ukraine as acts of genocide.
The draft resolution alleges that indiscriminate attacks on civilians, direct targeting of maternity hospitals and medical facilities, and forcible transfer of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia and Russian-controlled territories, are consistent with Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Crime of Genocide.
In the repercussions of the war in Ukraine on global food security, 40 countries are discussing at an international conference hosted by Germany the global food crisis, as United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the world is facing an unprecedented global hunger crisis, and that food access problems this year may turn the year Next to a severe food shortage.
The international conference deals with ways to open alternative ways to ship Ukrainian grain, and to ensure the stability of food supplies in the world.
German Foreign Minister Annalina Birbock accused Russia of using hunger as a weapon of war and holding the whole world hostage. The minister added in a press conference with her American counterpart, Anthony Blinken, that the two countries are working against the Russian grain war that threatens stability.
For his part, the US Secretary of State said that 40 million people have been added to the number of hungry people this year due to the Russian war, adding that there is no other reason than the Russian blockade of Ukraine, and that the refusal to export grain has caused a shortage of its supplies.
And Luis Miguel Bueno, the official spokesman for the European Union in the Middle East and North Africa, called in an intervention with Al Jazeera in a previous bulletin, that Ukraine and the United Nations should participate in any negotiations on the export of grain from Ukraine.
In Russia, President Vladimir Putin said that the West is suffering from hysteria over Ukrainian grain, reiterating that his country does not prevent the export of Ukrainian grain, expressing Moscow’s readiness to secure the exit of ships freely if Ukraine removes naval mines.
Putin denied that the war in Ukraine is the cause of inflation in the world, pointing out that inflation and the current crisis are the product of years of what he described as the irresponsible policy of the Group of Seven major countries.