VSFive civilians were killed and 12 others were injured on Saturday, June 18, in Ukrainian bombardments in Donetsk, in the separatist east of Ukraine. Partially controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014, this region is the subject of fierce fighting between Ukrainian forces and Russian forces which launched an offensive in Ukraine on February 24.
“From the morning, massive enemy shelling targets the capital of the People’s Republic” of Donetsk, according to the pro-Russian military forces of the DNR, which claim that more than 200 artillery shells of 155 mm caliber fell on Saturday on several districts of Donetsk. At the same time, fighting intensified around the town of Sievierodonetsk. Local authorities reported on Saturday “fierce battles” in the villages near this city, which Russian troops have been trying to seize for several weeks now.
Civilians hidden in a factory
According to the governor of the Luhanska region, there would be “more destruction” at the Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk, where hundreds of civilians have taken refuge. On Friday, he said that 568 people, including 38 children, were hiding in the factory and that only a “complete ceasefire” would allow them to be evacuated. The UN said on Friday that access to drinking water, food, sanitation and electricity was declining in Sievierodonetsk. She described the humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine as “extremely alarming”.
The German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) said on Saturday that it was investigating several hundred potential Russian war crimes in Ukraine, specifying that it was looking for the military and political leaders of these crimes. EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell on Saturday accused Russia of putting the world at risk of famine with the blocking of grain exports from Ukraine and restrictions on its own exports.
Mykolaiv, a port and industrial city of almost half a million inhabitants before the war, is still under Ukrainian control, but it is close to the Kherson region, occupied by the Russians. It remains a target of Moscow, as it lies on the route to Odessa, Ukraine’s largest port, 130 kilometers to the southwest.
Rare move of Zelenksy in southern Ukraine
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, whose trips outside the capital kyiv have been rare since the start of the Russian invasion, paid his first visit to the town of Mykolaiv in southern Ukraine on Saturday. A video, released by the Ukrainian presidency, shows him inspecting a badly damaged residential building and holding meetings with local officials.
The Ukrainian president hailed Brussels’ support for Ukraine’s EU candidate status, “positive news” for the country. The European Commission has recommended granting Ukraine EU candidate status. His opinion will be discussed next Thursday and Friday at a European summit, where the 27 EU leaders will have to give the green light – unanimously – for kyiv to officially obtain this status.