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Russia warns West of weapons repercussions, pounds Ukraine

A Ukrainian serviceman patrols a village near the frontline in the Donetsk oblast region, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, June 2, 2022. (AP Photo/Bernat Armangue)

KYIV, Ukraine — Britain pledged Thursday to send sophisticated medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine, joining the U.S and Germany in equipping the embattled nation with advanced weapons for shooting down aircraft and destroying artillery.

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Western arms have been critical to Ukraine’s success in stymieing Russia’s much larger and better-equipped military during a war now in its 99th day, with fierce fighting underway for control of the Donbas, the country’s eastern industrial region.

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The Kremlin warned of “absolutely undesirable and rather unpleasant scenarios” if the latest Western-supplied weapons are fired into Russia.

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“This pumping of Ukraine with weapons … will bring more suffering to Ukraine, which is merely a tool in the hands of those countries that supply it with weapons,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.

Russian forces continued to pound towns and cities overnight and to tighten their grip on the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk. Britain’s Defense Ministry reported that Russia had captured most of the city, one of two in Luhansk province that had remained under Ukrainian control. The Donbas is made up of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces.

As fighting raged in Ukraine’s east, some residents forced to flee Russian attempts to storm the capital, Kyiv, weeks ago confronted the overwhelming task of rebuilding their shattered lives.

Nila Zelinska and her husband, Eduard, returned this week for the first time to the charred ruins of what used to be their home outside Kyiv. They fled with her 82-year-old mother amid Russian shelling and airstrikes in the early days of the war.

A sobbing Zelinska recovered from the rubble a doll that belonged to one of her grandchildren, clutching it as if it were a real child.

“May there be peace on earth, peace so that our people are not suffering so much,” she said.

Speaking by video link to a security conference in Slovakia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy called for even more weapons and sanctions targeting Russia to halt such horrors.

“As of today, the occupiers control almost 20% of our territory,” he said.

Zelenskyy said Russia had fired 15 cruise missiles in the past day and used a total of 2,478 missiles since invading Ukraine. He said “most of them targeted civil infrastructure.”

British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said Britain will send an unspecified number of M270 launchers, which can fire precision-guided rockets up to 80 kilometers (50 miles). Ukrainian troops will be trained in Britain to use the equipment, he said.

The U.S. government said Wednesday that it would supply High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems to Ukraine. The two missile systems are similar, though the American one has wheels, while the British one — also U.S.-built — runs on tracks.

Germany, which has come under criticism that it wasn’t doing enough to help Ukraine, said Wednesday it would supply Ukraine with up-to-date anti-aircraft missiles and radar systems.

Sweden also announced plans Thursday to provide arms to Kyiv, including missiles, rifles and anti-tank weapons.

After Western-supplied arms helped Ukraine fend off Russian attempts to storm the capital, Moscow shifted its focus to seizing all the Donbas, where its offensive has resulted in incremental gains in the past week.

A regional governor said Russian forces now control 80% of Sievierodonetsk, a city that is key to Moscow’s efforts to complete its capture of the Donbas.

A Ukrainian military expert said an uptick in Russian missile strikes came in response to the newly promised arms.

“Supplies of Western weapons are of great concern for the Kremlin, because even without sufficient weapons the Ukrainian army is daringly resisting the offensive,” military analyst Oleh Zhdanov said.

Analysts think Russia is hoping to overrun the Donbas before any weapons that might turn the tide arrive. It will take at least three weeks to get the precision U.S. weapons and trained troops onto the battlefield, the Pentagon said.

Kyiv also was set to get a diplomatic boost with the formal installation of a new U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Bridget Brink. She was set to hand her credentials to Zelenskyy on Thursday.

Brink is Washington’s first ambassador in Kyiv since former U.S. President Donald Trump abruptly forced out Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch in 2019. She later became a key figure in the first impeachment proceedings against Trump.

Ahead of her Senate confirmation last month, Brink promised senators she would work to make Russia’s invasion of Ukraine a “strategic failure.” Her work in Kyiv is expected to focus on coordinating Western weapons shipments.

Military analyst Zhdanov said that once the fierce fighting in and around Sievierodonetsk is over, Russian forces will be exhausted, and military leaders will need to replenish their troops and weapons.

“Ukraine will try to use this pause to accumulate Western weapons, form a strategic reserve and prepare a counteroffensive,” he said.

The only other city in Luhansk province that the Russians have not yet captured, Lysychansk, is still fully under Ukrainian control, the governor said, but is likely to be the next target. The two cities are separated by a river.

Moscow’s forces also stormed the town of Komyshuvakha in the southeastern Zaporizhzhia region, large parts of which are under Russian control, the Ukrainian military said.

In the western Lviv region, a Russian missile hit rail lines that were a key conduit for supplies of Western weapons and other supplies, officials said.

In his nightly video address, Ukraine’s president turned the focus to his country’s children. He said at least 243 of them have died in the war, 446 have been wounded and 139 were missing. The real numbers could be higher, he added.

Zelenskyy said 200,000 children were among the Ukrainians forcefully taken to Russia and dispersed across that vast country: “The purpose of this criminal policy is not just to steal people but to make those who are deported forget about Ukraine and unable to return.”

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Becatoros reported from Sloviansk, Ukraine. Yuras Karmanau in Lviv, Ukraine, Ricardo Mazalan in Kyiv, Oleksandr Stashevskyi in Potashnya, Ukraine, and Associated Press reporters around the world contributed to this report.

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Follow the AP’s coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine

AP

JUNE 2, 2022

https://apnews.com/article/russia-ukraine-kyiv-government-and-politics-moscow-61ef29e1911bf2e38a19a6110e764e09

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