PRESS RELEASE

Battle for Donbas will determine course of Ukraine war, Zelensky says

Ukrainian President Voldymyr Zelensky said the battle for the eastern Donbas region is “key to deciding who will dominate in the coming weeks” of the war in his daily address Tuesday. French President Emmanuel Macron visited French troops at a NATO base in Romania Tuesday, where he thanked them for “honouring our commitment to defend Europe”. Follow FRANCE 24’s liveblog for the latest updates. All times Paris time (GMT+2).

June 15, 1:01am: European regulator ‘very worried’ about Russia flying Western-made planes after sanctions cutoff

European’s top aviation safety regulator said on Tuesday that he is “very worried” about the safety of Western-made aircraft continuing to fly in Russia without access to spare parts and proper maintenance.

The European Union and the United States have moved to restrict Russia’s access to spare parts following its invasion of Ukraine.

“This is very unsafe,” Patrick Ky, executive director of the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), told reporters on the sidelines of a conference, adding that regulators do not have good data on many of the planes flying in Russia.

11:23pm: NATO chief urges ‘more heavy weapons’ for Ukraine

Western countries must send Ukraine more heavy weaponry as it battles Russia’s advance in the east of the country, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Tuesday.

“Yes, Ukraine should have more heavy weapons,” Stoltenberg told a press conference in The Hague after meeting the leaders of seven European NATO allies ahead of a key summit.

Stoltenberg said NATO was already “stepping up” deliveries and officials would be meeting in Brussels on Wednesday to coordinate further support including heavy weaponry.

“Because they absolutely depend on that to be able to stand up against the brutal Russian invasion,” Stoltenberg said.

Ukraine has repeatedly begged for heavy weapons from the West, criticising some European leaders for failing to deliver arms that Kyiv says it needs to push back Moscow’s forces.

10:28pm: Battle for Donbas could decide future of the war, Zelensky says

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Tuesday said defending the Donbas was “vital” as the outcome of the battle for the eastern region would indicate the course of the war.

“Hanging in there in Donbas is crucial. Donbas is the key to deciding who will dominate in the coming weeks,” Zelensky said on Telegram in his daily address to the Ukrainian people.

Russian forces have advanced in Donbas and control most of the Luhansk region within it, with fighting particularly intense in the city of Severodonetsk, the largest city in Luhansk under Ukrainian control.

Capturing Severodonetsk and its twin city of Lysychansk would allow Russia to target Sloviansk farther west in the Donetsk region of Donbas.

9:50pm: Macron hails French soldiers at a NATO base in Romania

French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Romania on Tuesday to hold bilateral talks and meet with French troops stationed there who are part of NATO’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Macron’s visit to Romania, a NATO member since 2004 and a European Union member since 2007, marked the beginning of a regional tour that includes a visit Wednesday to non-NATO Moldova. Both countries share long borders with embattled Ukraine.

“Nobody knows what is in store for us in the coming weeks and months, but we will do all we can to put an end to the Russian invasion, to help Ukrainians and continue with negotiations,” Macron said at the eastern Mihail Kogalniceanu air base, where he was greeted by Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca.

In a brief address to French soldiers deployed at the NATO base, Macron praised them for “honouring our commitment to defend Europe as war is being waged again”.

France has around 500 soldiers deployed in Romania and has been a key player in NATO’s bolstering of forces on the alliance’s eastern flank following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24. France deployed an air defence system to Romania in May that NATO said “can ensure protection to the forces operating within the area”.

7:40pm: Ukraine has received only 10 percent of promised weapons, defence ministry says

Ukraine has received just 10 percent of the weapons pledged by the West to help Kyiv fight off the Russian offensive, the country’s deputy defence minister said Tuesday. 

“From what we said we need, we got about 10 percent,” Anna Malyar said in televised remarks, saying the West should speed up its delivery schedule. 

“No matter how hard Ukraine tries, no matter how professional our army is, without the help of Western partners we will not be able to win this war.”

5:50pm: Russia blacklists 49 UK citizens, including journalists and defence officials

Russia on Tuesday said it was blacklisting 49 UK citizens, including defence officials and prominent journalists and editors from the BBC, The Financial Times and The Guardian. 

London has been one of the most vocal supporters of Kyiv after President Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24.

“The British journalists on the list are involved in the deliberate dissemination of false and one-sided information about Russia and the events in Ukraine and Donbas,” the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement. 

London has so far offered more than £750 million ($937 million) in military support to Ukraine, including sending air defence systems, thousands of anti-tank missiles and various types of munitions, hundreds of armoured vehicles and other equipment.

3:13pm: Remaining residents of Ukrainian front-line city suffer without water or electricity

Residents of Lysychansk, Ukraine described devastating conditions as the strategic city endured near-constant shelling from Russian forces. The residential area is now without water and electricity, according to locals.

‘They bomb and they bomb’: Anguish in Ukraine’s Lysychansk


The city is now mostly deserted, but a few residents have remained. “Where are we supposed to go?” said one. “This is our land. We grew up here. We live here.”

1:21pm: Russia slashes gas deliveries via Nord Stream, says Gazprom

Russia’s energy giant Gazprom said Tuesday that it would be reducing daily gas deliveries via the Nord Stream pipeline to Germany due to the “repair” of compressor units by German company Siemens.

“Gas supplies via the Nord Stream gas pipeline can currently be provided in the amount of up to 100 million cubic metres per day,” Gazprom said in a statement on Telegram, adding that the expected daily volume is 167 million cubic metres.

12:30am: French government says possible Macron visit to Ukraine is ‘option’ but nothing decided yet

The possible visit by French President Emmanuel Macron to Ukraine capital Kyiv is one of “several options” that are on the table at present, although no firm decision has been taken on this yet, said government spokesperson Olivia Gregoire.

German paper Bild am Sonntag reported earlier this month that German Chancellor Olaf Scholz would travel to Kyiv on Thursday with Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

12:12am: German howitzers soon ready for use in Ukraine, says minister

The training of Ukrainian troops on German howitzers will soon be completed, paving the way for the use of the weapons in the war in Ukraine, German Defence Minister Christine Lambrecht said on Tuesday.

“The training on the Panzerhaubitze 2000 will soon be completed so that it can be used in battle in Ukraine,” she told reporters during a visit to a military base in the western German town of Rheinbach.

11:17am: Russian and Ukrainian forces battling for control of the city of Severodonetsk

The key industrial city of Severodonetsk has been the site of fierce artillery duels between Russian and Ukrainian forces for the past several weeks. Referring to the human cost of the battle, the Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday said the fight for Severodonetsk was taking a “terrifying” toll. FRANCE 24 Senior Reporter Catherine Norris Trent  reports from Kyiv. 

‘All three bridges leaving the town of Severodonetsk have now been destroyed’


10:43am: Russia struck weapons depot in Ukraine with cruise missiles, says Russian news agency

Russia struck an artillery weapons depot with Kalibr cruise missiles in Ukraine’s Chernihiv region, the RIA news agency reported on Tuesday, citing the Russian defence ministry.

Russian air defence forces shot down a Ukrainian MiG-29 fighter jet and an Mi-24 helicopter, the TASS news agency reported, citing the ministry.

10:23am: UK’s Truss says will do whatever needed to secure release of Britons from Donbas

 British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said on Tuesday she would do whatever was necessary to secure the release of two British nationals who have been sentenced to death by Russian proxy authorities in Donbas.

Asked whether she was prepared to negotiate directly with the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic, Truss told BBC Radio: “I will do whatever is necessary to secure their release.”

“I have assured the families that I will do what is most effective to secure their release and I am not going to go into our strategy live on air … The best route is through the Ukrainians.”

8:34am: Pope Francis says he refuses distinction between ‘good and bad’ in Ukraine war

Pope Francis refused the distinction between “good and bad” in the war in Ukraine, he was quoted as saying by Italian daily La Stampa, which reported the Pope’s conversation with editors of Jesuit European cultural magazines.

Asked if he was in favour of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, the Pope answered: “No, I am not, I am simply opposed to reducing complexity to distinction between good and bad”. He also said the situation was not black and white and that the war was “perhaps in some way provoked”.

Pope Francis did make a series of comments about Russia’s actions in Ukraine, saying its troops were brutal, cruel and ferocious, while praising Ukrainians for fighting for survival.

Pope Francis hopes to meet Patriarch Kirill of the Russian Orthodox Church in September in Kazakhstan, he added.

7:00am: Ukraine’s besieged farmers fear harvest ‘hell’

Farmers in front-line regions are scrambling to survive a harvest under Russian fire.

They see Russia’s shelling of the Nika-Tera port facility in the southern city of Mykolaiv on June 4 as just the most dramatic example of a wider assault on a pillar of Ukraine’s economy – and the world’s.

“Agriculture is one of the few business sectors that is working… Of course they want to destroy it. They want to end this stream of income into the country,” farmer Volodymyr Onyschuk said near a pile of Russian shell casings on his 2,000 hectare wheat and sunflower holding near Mykolaiv.

Crops will be vulnerable to fire caused by shelling, he said, and that could be “hell” for farmers when the harvest season begins in coming weeks.

Asked how Mykolaiv farmers planned to reduce exposure to Russian actions, he said: “Let us just survive until the next harvest.”

11:10pm: Russian forces cut off last bridge to Severodonetsk

Russian forces eliminated the last routes for evacuating citizens from the eastern Ukrainian city of Severodonetsk, a Ukrainian official said, as the Kremlin pushed for victory in the Donbas region.

The last bridge to the city was destroyed, trapping any remaining civilians and making it impossible to deliver humanitarian supplies, said regional governor Sergei Gaidai, adding that some 70% of the city was under Russian control.

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS and AFP)

© France Médias Monde graphic studio


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