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Russia-Ukraine live updates: Battle in key city to determine fate of eastern Ukraine, Zelenskyy says

Scott Olson/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “special military operation” into neighboring Ukraine began on Feb. 24, with Russian forces invading from Belarus, to the north, and Russia, to the east. Ukrainian troops have offered “stiff resistance,” according to U.S. officials.

The Russian military has since launched a full-scale ground offensive in eastern Ukraine’s disputed Donbas region, capturing the strategic port city of Mariupol and securing a coastal corridor to the Moscow-annexed Crimean Peninsula.

Here’s how the news is developing. All times Eastern:

Jun 09, 8:55 am
Battle in key city to determine fate of eastern Ukraine, Zelenskyy says

The fight for the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk will determine the fate of the wider Donbas region, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.

“Severodonetsk remains the epicenter of the confrontation in Donbas. We defend our positions, inflict significant losses on the enemy,” Zelenskyy said late Wednesday in his nightly address. “This is a very fierce battle, very difficult. Probably one of the most difficult throughout this war. I am grateful to everyone who defends this direction. In many ways, the fate of our Donbas is being decided there.”

After launching an invasion of neighboring Ukraine on Feb. 24, Russian forces failed to take control of the capital, Kyiv, and other major government centers as they faced tough resistance from Ukrainian troops. Russian forces then switched attention to Donbas, which comprises the self-proclaimed republics controlled by Moscow-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine’s Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts.

Severodonetsk, an industrial hub, is the largest city still held by Ukrainian troops in contested Donbas. In recent days, Russian forces have encircled the city as they advanced in the region, creating a pocket that could trap Ukrainian defenders there and in the neighboring city of Lysychansk.

Severodonetsk and Lysychansk are the last major cities in the Luhansk area still controlled by Ukraine. Last week, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said in an intelligence update that Russian forces had seized most of Severodonetsk, but that the main road into the pocket likely remained under Ukrainian control.

Jun 09, 7:32 am
Mariupol residents face risk of cholera epidemic under Russian occupation

The port city of Mariupol in eastern Ukraine is facing the risk of a cholera epidemic amid the destruction of water supplies and sanitation during the Russian invasion, city officials and health agencies warn.

“The risk of cholera is very high, like red, red level,” Petro Andriushchenko, an advisor to Mariupol’s mayor, told ABC News, adding that the municipality could not provide an estimation of the number of infected cases due to lack of proper access to the occupants amid the occupation by Russian forces.

While the warnings have intensified in the past few days, Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said on Telegram last month that due to problems with water supply, the Russian occupied city is threatened by an infectious catastrophe and more than 10,000 people may die by the end of the year.

The deteriorating water, sanitation and hygiene infrastructure has set an alarmingly high risk of an outbreak, according to a report in April from the World Health Organization’s Health Cluster Ukraine agency.

The warming spring and summer weather will likely increase transmission, the report said.

“The weather is hot. There are still dead bodies on the streets of the city — especially under the debris of residential buildings. In some blocks, it is impossible to walk by — due to the stench of rotten human flesh. There was no rain for a while, and it is getting hotter,” a resident of Mariupol, who did not want to be named for security concerns, told ABC News.

Jun 08, 12:53 pm
Russian-occupied Mariupol faces ‘catastrophic lack of medical staff’

The Russian-occupied city of Mariupol, Ukraine, is facing a “catastrophic lack of medical staff,” Petro Andryushchenko, an adviser to the mayor of Mariupol, said on the Telegram app.

He said Russians are trying to convince locals who are over 80 years old to go back to work at hospitals.

He warned, “In this state of medicine, any infectious disease turns into a deadly epidemic.”

Jun 08, 8:36 am
Putin-Zelenskyy meeting not possible, Kremlin says

A meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is not currently possible, the Kremlin said.

When asked about a recent comment from Zelenskyy that he’s willing to meet with Putin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, “Our position is well-known here: good preparations need to be made for a top-level meeting. We know that the Ukrainian side has withdrawn from the negotiation track, and therefore it is currently not possible to prepare for this sort of top-level meeting.”

Jun 08, 5:06 am
Ukrainian defenses in key eastern city ‘holding,’ despite Russian attacks

Ukrainian troops defending the eastern city of Sieverodonetsk are “holding,” despite attacks in three directions from Russian forces, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Wednesday in an intelligence update.

“Russia continues to attempt assaults against the Sieverodonetsk pocket from three directions although Ukrainian defences are holding,” the ministry said. “It is unlikely that either side has gained significant ground in the last 24 hours.”

Sieverodonetsk, an industrial hub, is the largest city still held by Ukrainian troops in the contested Donbas region of Ukraine’s east, which comprises the self-proclaimed republics in Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts. In recent days, Russian forces have encircled the city as they advanced in Donbas, creating a pocket that could trap Ukrainian defenders there and in the neighboring city of Lysychansk.

Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk are the last major cities in the Luhansk area still controlled by Ukraine.

Last week, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Russian forces had seized most of Sieverodonetsk, but that the main road into the pocket likely remained under Ukrainian control.

With the frontage of the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine stretching for over 300 miles, “both Russia and Ukraine face similar challenges in maintaining a defensive line while freeing up capable combat units for offensive operations,” according to the ministry.

“While Russia is concentrating its offensive on the central Donbas sector, it has remained on the defensive on its flanks,” the ministry said in its intelligence update Wednesday. “Ukrainian forces have recently achieved some success by counter-attacking in the south-western Kherson region, including regaining a foothold on the eastern bank of the Ingulets River.”

Jun 07, 3:12 pm
At least 3 dead in shelling in Kharkiv

At least three people were killed and six others were injured in the Kharkiv area from ongoing shelling by Russian forces, according to the Kharkiv regional governor, Oleg Synegubov.

-ABC News’ Will Gretsky

Jun 07, 11:48 am
Ukraine official: Hard to win ‘without speeding up the supply of modern weapons’

Oleksiy Danilov, Ukraine’s secretary of the National Security and Defense Council, told ABC News that “it will be difficult for Ukraine to win this war without speeding up the supply of modern weapons.”

He added, “The country is ready for long-term resistance, because we are fighting for our freedom.”

This comes as the Donetsk People’s Republic claims an advance in territory.

DPR Foreign Minister Natalia Nikonorova told reporters, “We can say that the allied forces — the DPR militia and units of the Russian Defense Ministry — are in control of over 70% of the territory.”

Jun 07, 11:02 am
Ukrainian grain may be leaving ports — but on Russian ships

There is evidence of Russian vessels departing “from near Ukraine with their cargo holds full of grain,” a U.S. Department of State spokesperson told ABC News on Monday night.

The Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has reported that Russia seized at least 400,000 to 500,000 tons of grain worth over $100 million, according to the State Department spokesperson.

“Ukraine’s MFA also has numerous testimonies from Ukrainian farmers and documentary evidence showing Russia’s theft of Ukrainian grain,” the spokesperson said.

The news of Ukrainian grain aboard Russian ships partly confirms a recent report by The New York Times that Moscow is seeking to profit off of grain plundered from Ukraine by selling the product while subverting sanctions. Ukraine has already accused Russia of shipping the stolen grain to buyers in Syria and Turkey.

Russia and Ukraine — often referred to collectively as Europe’s breadbasket — produce a third of the global supply of wheat and barley, but Kyiv has been unable to ship exports due to Moscow’s offensive. A Russian blockade in the Black Sea, along with Ukrainian naval mines, have made exporting siloed grain virtually impossible and, as a result, millions of people around the world — particularly in Africa and the Middle East — are now on the brink of famine.

-ABC News’ Shannon Crawford

Jun 06, 12:26 pm
Two planes owned by Russian oligarch grounded by US prosecutors

Two planes — a Gulfstream G650 and a Boeing 787 — have been grounded after federal prosecutors said their owner, Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, violated U.S. sanctions by flying the aircraft to Moscow in March.

The sanctions require a license for any U.S.-made aircraft to fly to Russia. The sanctions also prohibit an aircraft that is owned, controlled or under charter or lease by a Russian national from being flown to Russia.

“No licenses were applied for or issued. Nor was any license exception available, including because the Boeing and the Gulfstream were each owned and/or controlled by a Russian national: Roman Abramovich,” said the affidavit supporting a seizure warrant.

The Boeing plane is believed to be among the most expensive private aircraft in the world, worth $350 million, the affidavit said.

Jun 06, 9:05 am
Russia beefs up air defense on Snake Island

Russia has likely moved multiple air defense assets, including SA-15 and SA-22 missile systems, to Snake Island in the western Black Sea, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Monday in an intelligence update.

The move follows the loss of the Russian warship Moskva, the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.

“It is likely these weapons are intended to provide air defence for Russian naval vessels operating around Snake Island,” the ministry added. “Russia’s activity on Snake Island contributes to its blockade of the Ukrainian coast and hinders the resumption of maritime trade, including exports of Ukrainian grain.”

Russian forces captured Ukraine’s Snake Island in the early days of the invasion, memorably when Ukrainian soldiers defending the tiny islet told an attacking Russian warship to “go f— yourself.” Ukrainian troops have failed in their attempts to retake the previously inconsequential territory.

Meanwhile, in eastern Ukraine’s contested Donbas region, heavy fighting continues in the war-torn city of Sieverodonetsk, according to the ministry.

“Russian forces continue to push towards Sloviansk as part of their attempted encirclement of Ukrainian force,” the ministry said.

And in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, Russian air-launched cruise missiles struck rail infrastructure Sunday in the early morning hours, “likely in an attempt [to] disrupt the supply of Western military equipment to frontline Ukrainian units,” according to the ministry.

Jun 05, 3:39 pm
Russian missiles target Kyiv

After five weeks of relative calm in Kyiv, Russian rockets hit Ukraine’s capital city on Sunday as Russian President Vladimir Putin warned of strikes on “new targets” if the United States goes through with plans to supply Ukraine with longer-range missiles.

Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Defense Hanna Maliar said the war is still in its “hot phase” and “capturing Kyiv is still Russia’s main goal.”

An ABC News crew visited Kyiv’s Darnytskyy district, where several Russian cruise missiles slammed into a railway repair plant. One building was still on fire when the ABC News crew arrived. Nearby, another missile strike left a creater on a cement path.

It took hours before Ukrainian authorities permitted media access to the site, saying the area needed to be cleared for safety first.

The Russians claimed the attack in Darnystskyy destroyed military vehicles and armaments. Ukrainian officials said the missiles hit a railway repair plant where no tanks were stored.

Speaking on Russian TV on Sunday, Putin issued a warning to the West on supplying the Ukrainians with high-powered rocket systems. He said if the West carried through with it, Russia would hit “new targets they had not attacked before.”

Jun 05, 7:05 am
Putin warns of strikes if West supplies longer-range missiles

President Vladimir Putin warned that Russian forces would strike new targets if the West began supplying Ukraine with longer-range missiles.

“But if they [missiles] are actually delivered, we will draw appropriate conclusions and apply our own weapons, which we have in sufficient quantities to carry out strikes on targets we aren’t striking yet,” Putin told Rossyia 1 TV Channel in an interview on Sunday.

-ABC News’ Tanya Stukalova and Tomek Rolski

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