MOSCOW — Russia’s defense minister says that the Russian troops have taken control of large swaths of eastern Ukraine.
Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday that the Russian forces have fully “liberated” the residential quarters of Sievierodonetsk and are fighting to take control of an industrial zone on its outskirts and the nearby towns.
That city, the administrative center of the Luhansk region, has recently been the focus of the Russian offensive.
Shoigu added that the Russian troops were pressing their offensive toward the town of Popasna, with a pre-war population of 20,000, and lying some 30 kilometers (20 miles) south of Sievierodonetsk. He noted that they have taken control of Lyman and Sviatohirsk and 15 other towns in the region. He claimed that 97% of the Luhansk region has already been “liberated.”
KEY DEVELOPMENTS IN THE RUSSIA-UKRAINE WAR:
— AP Exclusive: Ukraine recovers bodies from steel-plant siege
— Ukraine's leader says Russia is trying to capture a key southeastern city
— US general says US, allies will keep sending ‘significant’ aid to Ukraine
— UN: Climate shocks and Ukraine war fuel multiple global food crises
Follow AP’s coverage of the war in Ukraine at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine
MOSCOW — The Russian military says it has destroyed several artillery systems provided by the West in the latest series of strikes on Ukrainian targets.
Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Tuesday that the Russian artillery hit a howitzer supplied by Norway and two other artillery systems given to Ukraine by the United States. He said that the Russian artillery barrage destroyed other Ukrainian equipment in the country’s east while the Russian air force hit Ukrainian troops and equipment concentrations and artillery positions.
Konashenkov’s claims couldn’t be independently confirmed.
LVIV, Ukraine -- A Ukrainian official says Russia has deployed additional troops to eastern Ukraine to help capture a key city.
Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai told The Associated Press that the Russian forces control industrial outskirts of Sievierodonetsk, one of two cities in the Luhansk region left to be seized by Russia. The Russian forces have so far failed to take over all of it and have been forced to deploy additional troops, he said.
“Toughest street battles continue, with varying degrees of success, the situation constantly changes, but the Ukrainians are repelling attacks,” Haidai said.
The neighboring Lysychansk -- the second city still not taken in the region, 95% of which is under Russian control -- is being barraged by artillery. Haidai said. He said the Russian troops shelled a local market, a school and a college building, destroying the latter. Three people with wounds were sent to hospitals elsewhere Ukraine.
“A total destruction of the city is underway, Russian shelling has intensified significantly over the past 24 hours. Russians are using the scorched earth tactics,” Haidai said.
In all, the Ukrainian forces have repelled 10 Russian attacks over the past 24 hours, according to the Luhansk governor.
KYIV, Ukraine — In a latest sign of Ukrainian resilience, a theater in Ukraine’s capital reopened for the first time since Russian forces invaded the country on Feb. 24, and tickets sold out for Sunday’s performance.
Cinemas and the National Opera opened their doors at the end of May in Kyiv.
“We were wondering how it would be, whether spectators would come during the war, whether they think at all about theater, whether it’s of any interest,” said one of the actors, Yuriy Felipenko. “And we were happy that the first three plays were sold out.”
Actor Kostya Tomlyak says he had hesitated to perform in wartime. But the influx of people returning to Kyiv since hostilities there have lessened persuaded him that it’s necessary to go on.
Said Tomlyak: “You continue living, although you don’t forget that there is the war. The main question is how actors can be helpful.”
MOSCOW — Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced Monday that is levying sanctions on 61 U.S. nationals,.
It said the move was being taken “in response to the ever-expanding U.S. sanctions against Russian political and public figures, as well as representatives of domestic business.”
The list includes U.S. officials and former and current top managers of large American companies, such as Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, White House communications director Kate Bedingfield and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings.
UNITED NATIONS -- European Council President Charles Michel accused Russia of using food supplies as “a stealth missile against developing countries” and blamed the Kremlin for the looming global food crisis, prompting Moscow’s U.N. ambassador to walk out of a Security Council meeting.
Michel addressed Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia directly at a council meeting Monday, saying he saw millions of tons of grain and wheat stuck in containers and ships at the Ukrainian port of Odessa a few weeks ago “because of Russian warships in the Black Sea.” He said Moscow’s attacks on Ukraine’s transport infrastructure and grain storage facilities, and its tanks, airstrikes and mines are preventing Ukraine from planting and harvesting.
“This is driving up food prices, pushing people into poverty and destabilizing entire regions,” Michel said. “Russia is solely responsible for this looming food crisis. Russia alone.”
Michel accused Russian forces of stealing grain from areas in Ukraine that it has occupied “while shifting the blame of others,” calling this “cowardly” and “propaganda, pure and simple.”
Nebenzia walked out, giving Russia’s seat to another diplomat. Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Dmitry Polyansky tweeted later on Telegram’s Russian channel that Michel’s comments were “so rude” that the Russian ambassador left the Security Council chamber.
COLLEVILLE-SUR-MER, France — The United States and its allies will keep providing “significant” support to Ukraine out of respect for the legacy of D-Day soldiers, whose victory over the Nazis helped lead to a new world order and a “better peace,” Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday.
In an interview with The Associated Press overlooking Omaha Beach in Normandy, Milley said Russia’s war on Ukraine undermines the rules established by Allied countries after the end of World War II. He spoke on the 78th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Allied troops onto the beaches of France, which led to the overthrow of Nazi Germany’s occupation.
One fundamental rule of the “global rules-based order” is that “countries cannot attack other countries with their military forces in acts of aggression unless it’s an act of pure self-defense,” he stressed. “But that’s not what’s happened here in Ukraine. What’s happened here is an open, unambiguous act of aggression.”
“I think that the United States and the allied countries are providing a significant amount of support to Ukraine, and that will continue,” he said.
KYIV, Ukraine — Russia has begun turning over the bodies of Ukrainian fighters killed at the Azovstal steelworks, the fortress-like plant in the destroyed city of Mariupol where their last-ditch stand became a symbol of resistance against Moscow’s invasion.
Dozens of the dead taken from the bombed-out mill’s now Russian-occupied ruins have been transferred to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, where DNA testing is underway to identify the remains, according to both a military leader and a spokeswoman for the Azov Regiment.
The Azov Regiment was among the Ukrainian units that defended the steelworks for nearly three months before surrendering in May under relentless Russian attacks from the ground, sea and air.
It was unclear how many bodies might remain at the plant.
Meanwhile, Russian forces continued to fight for control of Sievierodonetsk, an eastern Ukrainian city that is key to Moscow’s goal of completing the capture of the industrial Donbas region.
NEW YORK — U.S. authorities moved Monday to seize two luxury jets — a $60 million Gulfstream and a $350 million aircraft believed to be one of the world’s most expensive private airplanes — after linking both to Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich.
A federal magistrate judge signed a warrant authorizing the seizure of the Gulfstream and a Boeing jet that authorities said was worth less than $100 million before a lavish customization.
The action takes place just days after the United States announced new sanctions and penalties on Russian oligarchs and elites, Kremlin officials, businessmen linked to President Vladimir Putin and their yachts, aircraft and firms that manage them.
President Joe Biden promised after Russia’s February invasion of Ukraine to pursue Russian elites’ “ill-gotten gains.”
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said Monday that his office was using every legal tool available to respond to “Russian’s illegal war in Ukraine.”
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president is asking for a secure corridor for Ukrainian vessels to be able to ship out grain and prevent food shortages in Africa and Asia.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy told a news conference on Monday that Kyiv is in talks with countries like Turkey and the U.K. about security guaranties for Ukrainian ships.
Zelenskyy adds that “if now we have 22-25 million tons blocked there, in the fall we might have 75 (million tons).”
“What are we going to do? he asked. ”That’s why we can’t do without the ports.”
The issue of blocked grain will be on the agenda on Wednesday during Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Turkey. Ankara is involved in efforts by the United Nations to reach an agreement for the shipment of Ukrainian grain amid an escalating food crisis.
Zelenskyy says Kyiv hasn’t been invited, possibly because Turkey wants to get security guarantees from Russia for its own ships first.
UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. envoy on sexual violence in conflict says sexual violence in Ukraine especially against women and girls remains prevalent and underreported, and the humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country is turning into “a human trafficking crisis.”
Pramila Patten told the U.N. Security Council Monday that there is a gap between its resolutions aimed at preventing rape and other sexual attacks during conflicts and the reality on the ground for the most vulnerable — women and children.
As of June 3, she said, the U.N. human rights office had received 124 allegations of conflict-related sexual violence — 97 against women and girls, 19 against men, 7 against boys and 1 gender unknown. Verification of these cases is on-going, she said.
Patten said Ukraine’s prosecutor general informed her during a visit in May that a national hot line reported the following forms of conflict-related sexual violence between Feb. 24, when Russian troops invaded the country, and April 12: “rape, gang rape, pregnancy following rape, attempted rape, threats of rape, coercion to watch an act of sexual violence committed against a partner or a child, and forced nudity.”
KYIV, Ukraine — Ukraine’s president says the Russian forces intend to capture the southeastern city of Zaporizhzhia, a move that could severely weaken Ukraine’s standing and allow the Russian military to advance closer to the center of the country.
“In the Zaporizhzhia region ... there is the most threatening situation there,” Volodymyr Zelenskyy told reporters on Monday. He added that part of the region already has been taken and Russia wants to take the city next.
In the south of Ukraine, Russia has already seized large cities of Kherson and Mariupol. The Zaporizhzhia region, with the population of 1.6 million people, is one of the biggest industrial hubs of Ukraine’s southeast. The city itself has 722,000 people.
Zelenskyy also said that the Ukrainian troops continue to fight in the eastern part of the country known as the Donbas. In the Luhansk region, the Ukrainian resistance continues in Sievierodonetsk, one of two cities still not in Russia’s hands, he said.
“There are more of them, they are more powerful, but we have every chance to fight on there,” Zelenskyy said.
In the northern Kharkiv region, the Ukrainian army “step by step de-occupies our lands,” Zelenskyy said.
MOSCOW — The Russian foreign minister has warned the West that if it provides Ukraine with long-range rockets, Moscow will respond by taking over larger areas of Ukraine.
Speaking during an online news conference Monday, Sergey Lavrov said that “the longer the range of weapons you supply, the farther away the line from where neo-Nazis could threaten the Russian Federation will be pushed.”
The U.S. and Britain have announced they will provide Ukraine with multiple rocket-launchers capable of striking targets up to 80 kilometers (50 miles) away. The systems are capable of firing longer range rockets that can hit areas of up to 300 kilometers (186 miles) away, but U.S. said it wouldn’t supply the rockets.
Asked how Moscow would respond if the U.S. and its allies change their mind and provide Ukraine with long-range rockets, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in televised comments Sunday that Moscow will “draw appropriate conclusions and use our strike means, which we have plenty of, in order to hit the facilities that we haven’t struck yet.”