Bitter fighting raged in Sievierodonetsk but Ukraine remained in control of an industrial area and chemical plant in the eastern city where hundreds of civilians are sheltering from incessant Russian shelling, the region’s governor said. FIGHTING * President Volodomyr Zelenskiy said Ukraine’s military was gradually liberating territory further west in the Kherson region and had some successes in Zaporizhzhia, too. * Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai conceded Russian forces had taken most of Sievierodonetsk but said the Azot plant was not being blockaded. He also said Russian shelling had ignited a big fire after an oil leak. * In addition to saying 300-400 Ukrainian fighters were blockaded in the plant, separatist Rodion Miroshnik said Ukrainian forces may be holding several hundred civilians “hostage.” * In neighboring Donetsk province, Russian news agency RIA reported a huge cloud of smoke after an explosion in Avdiivka, a city which houses another chemical plant. Reuters was unable to immediately to confirm the report. * Southwest of Sievierodonetsk, Russian forces were firing mortars and artillery around a number of settlements, according to Ukraine’s general staff. But it said Ukrainian forces had repulsed Russian attempts to advance towards some communities. DIPLOMACY * German Chancellor Olaf Scholz will travel to Kyiv with French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi before the G7 summit at the end of June, Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper reported. * European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the EU executive’s opinion on Ukraine’s request to join the European Union would be ready in the coming week.
QUOTES “No one can say whether and how many victims there have been in the last 24 hours in Sievierodonetsk, where intense fighting continues,” Gaidai said on the Telegram messaging app. “Everyone wants to evacuate now, probably, but so far there is no such possibility,”
(Compiled by Frances Kerry, Jonathan Oatis and Kim Coghill)