Lukrainian forces may have to leave Sievierodonetsk, a key city in eastern Ukraine, for better fortified positions, the regional governor said on Wednesday (June 8th). “We may have to withdraw,” said Serguiï Gaïdaï, governor of the Luhansk region, on the Ukrainian channel 1+1, while the city has been partially controlled by the Russians for days. However, he assured that a withdrawal would not be tantamount to definitively abandoning this crucial city for control of the entire Donbass mining basin. “There are bombardments everywhere, 24 hours a day” and Russia is concentrating all its forces in the region, he stressed.
Russia’s defense minister said on Tuesday that his forces had “completely liberated” the residential areas of Sievierodonetsk. “The takeover of its industrial zone and neighboring localities continues,” said Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in a rare televised briefing on Tuesday.
Sievierodonetsk is the largest settlement still in Ukrainian hands in the Luhansk region (East), where Russian soldiers have laboriously advanced in recent weeks, after withdrawing or being driven from other parts of Ukrainian territory, including surroundings of Kyiv. The Russian army is currently trying to conquer all of Donbass, a mining basin in eastern Ukraine formed by the regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, partly in the hands of pro-Russian separatists since 2014.
A possible lifting of sanctions against Russia?
Turkey considers Russia’s request to lift sanctions on Russian agricultural exports to be “legitimate” to facilitate Ukrainian exports, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Cavusoglu said on Wednesday.
“If we have to open the Ukrainian international market, we believe that lifting the obstacles to Russian exports is legitimate,” declared the Turkish minister who received his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, in Ankara. The two ministers meet in order to find an agreement on Ukrainian grain exports via the Black Sea.
For its part, Russia said it was “ready” to guarantee the safety of grain ships leaving Ukrainian ports, with the cooperation of Turkey, its Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov assured Wednesday in Ankara. “We are ready to guarantee the safety of ships leaving Ukrainian ports […] in cooperation with our Turkish colleagues,” he said during a press conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.
For the Ankara minister, “the UN plan is reasonable and achievable. Ukraine and Russia should accept it”. Ukraine, the world’s fourth largest corn exporter, was on its way to becoming the world’s third largest wheat exporter before the war. The ongoing conflict since February 24 has caused prices to soar and pose a serious risk of famine in the countries that depend on them, particularly in Africa and the Middle East.