Ukraine-Russia War: Communications in Kherson shut down - Ukraine

Kherson reports communication shutdown * Russian forces now controlled between a third and half of Sievierodonetsk * City administration head says evacuations are not possible

 Pensioner Gennady Ivanov, 83, sits outside a residential building heavily damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine May 30, 2022.  (photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)
Pensioner Gennady Ivanov, 83, sits outside a residential building heavily damaged during Ukraine-Russia conflict in the southern port city of Mariupol, Ukraine May 30, 2022.
(photo credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)

Ukrainian officials are reporting a "shutdown of all communications" in the Russian-occupied southern region of Kherson.

In a statement, Ukraine's State Service for Special Communication and Information Protection said that an unspecified intrusion "by the occupation regime" had taken place and that equipment had been powered down and cables disconnected.

"The residents of the region are currently left without Ukrainian mobile communication and Internet access, as well as with no means to make national and international phone calls using landline phone devices," the agency said.

Few other details were immediately available.

 Local resident Viacheslav walks on debris of a residential building damaged by a military strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine April 16, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/SERHII NUZHNENKO) Local resident Viacheslav walks on debris of a residential building damaged by a military strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Sievierodonetsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine April 16, 2022 (credit: REUTERS/SERHII NUZHNENKO)

Ukrainian forces were holding out in Sievierodonetsk on Tuesday, resisting Russia's all-out assault to capture a bombed-out wasteland that Moscow has made the principal objective of its invasion in recent days.

Both sides said Russian forces now controlled between a third and half of the city. Russia's separatist proxies acknowledged that capturing it was taking longer than hoped, despite one of the biggest ground assaults of the war.

Serhiy Gaidai the governor of Ukraine's Luhansk province said in a Tuesday evening post that "Russian forces control most of the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk but have not surrounded it"

Western military analysts say Moscow has drained manpower and firepower from across the rest of the front to concentrate on Sievierodonetsk, hoping a massive offensive on the small industrial city will achieve one of its stated aims, to secure surrounding Luhansk province for separatist proxies.

"We can say already that a third of Sievierodonetsk is already under our control," Russia's TASS state news agency quoted Leonid Pasechnik, the leader of the pro-Moscow Luhansk People's Republic, as saying.

The Ukrainian head of the city administration, Oleksandr Stryuk, said the Russians now controlled half of the city.

"Unfortunately ... the city has been split in half. But at the same time the city still defends itself. It is still Ukrainian," he said, advising those still trapped inside to stay in cellars.

Russia's defense ministry said on Tuesday that its forces had downed a Ukrainian Su-25 fighter jet in Ukraine's Mykolaiv region and bombed a radar station and two ammunition depots in eastern Ukraine.

Russian arrested for war crimes

A Ukrainian court sentenced two captured Russian soldiers to 11 and a half years in jail on Tuesday for shelling a town in eastern Ukraine, the second war crimes verdict since the start of Russia's invasion in February.

Alexander Bobikin and Alexander Ivanov, who listened to the verdict standing in a reinforced glass box at the Kotelevska district court in central Ukraine, both pleaded 'guilty' last week.

A ship has left the Ukrainian port of Mariupol for the first time since Russia took the city and is headed east to Russia with a load of metal, the Russian-backed separatist leader of the Ukrainian breakaway region of Donetsk said on Tuesday.

Ukraine said the shipment of metal to Russia from Mariupol, whose capture gave Moscow an overland bridge linking mainland Russia and pro-Russian separatist territory to annexed-Crimea, amounted to looting.

"Today 2,500 tons of hot-rolled sheets left the port of Mariupol," Denis Pushilin, the leader of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, wrote on the Telegram messaging app. "The ship headed for (the Russian city of) Rostov."

Russia seized full control of Mariupol earlier this month when more than 2,400 Ukrainian fighters surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steelworks. Russia said last week that the port had been demined and was open again to commercial vessels.

British military intelligence said on Tuesday that Russia was advancing slowly into Ukraine's Luhansk Oblast, adding that the massing of its forces in a small area raised risks for others elsewhere.

"Progress has been slow but gains are being held. Routes into the pocket likely remain under Ukrainian control," Britain's Defense Ministry said in a Twitter update.

"Russia has achieved greater local successes than earlier in the campaign by massing forces and fires in a relatively small area. This forces Russia to accept risk elsewhere in occupied territory."

Military assistance to Ukraine

Germany will deliver infantry fighting vehicles (IFV) to Greece so that the government in Athens can pass on Soviet-style weapons to Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on Tuesday.

"We will provide Greece with German infantry fighting vehicles," he told reporters after a two-day EU summit in Brussels, adding he had struck an agreement with the Greek prime minister.

Scholz didn't give any details as to what kind of infantry fighting vehicles Berlin will hand over to Greece - or what kind of weapons Athens will pass on to Kyiv.

"The defense ministries will work out the details and quickly implement this agreement," he said.

According to a defense source, Berlin aims to deliver some 100 old Marder IFVs owned by arms-maker Rheinmetall RHMG.DE to Greece.

Athens, in return, would supply Soviet-style BMP IFVs to Ukraine, the source told Reuters.

Evacuations not possible

Ukraine is still in control of Sievierodonetsk city and its soldiers are fighting slowly advancing Russian troops but evacuations of civilians are not currently possible, the head of the city's administration said on Tuesday.

"The city is still in Ukrainian hands and it's putting up a fight... (but) evacuations are not possible due to the fighting," Oleksandr Stryuk told Ukrainian television.

Russian claims

Russia's Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev claimed Tuesday that "Poland is moving to seize territories in western Ukraine," Patrushev announced according to Russian Interfax.

"The so-called western partners of the Kyiv regime are also not opposed to taking advantage of the current situation for their own selfish interests and have special plans for Ukrainian lands," he said.

According to Patrushev, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky intends to allow Poland to have a special status in Ukraine, allowing them to hold leading public positions.

Biden closing in on new weapons package for Ukraine

US President Joe Biden and his team are still considering the sending of longer-range rocket systems to Ukraine but do not want them used to launch attacks inside Russian territory, the White House said on Tuesday.

US officials said Biden and his national security aides are in the final stages of preparing a new weapons package for Ukraine with an announcement expected soon, possibly as early as Wednesday.

Ukrainian officials have been asking allies for longer-range systems including the Multiple Launch Rocket System, or MLRS, that can fire a barrage of rockets hundreds of miles away, in the hopes of turning the tide in the three-month-long war. Read full story

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said this system is under consideration.

"But as the president said, we won't be sending long-range rockets for use beyond the battlefield in Ukraine," she said. Other US officials have said Biden does not want them launched into Russian territory to avoid broadening the Ukraine war.

Biden on Tuesday told reporters that "we're not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia."

He did not rule out providing any specific weapons system, but instead appeared to be placing conditions on how they could be used. Biden and his team are working on a new package of military equipment using some of the money from a $40 million budget appropriation approved by the US Congress.

The MLRS was under consideration, but nothing with long-range strike capabilities outside of battlefield use, a senior administration official said.

Biden wants to help Ukraine defend itself but has been opposed to providing weapons that Ukraine could use to attack Russia.

Thousands of people have been killed in Ukraine and millions more displaced since the Russian invasion on Feb. 24, which Moscow calls a "special military operation" to "denazify" its neighbor. Ukraine and its Western allies call this a baseless pretext for a war to seize territory.

The West has been increasingly willing to give Ukraine longer-range weaponry, including M777 howitzers, as its force battle Russians with more success than intelligence officials had predicted. 

But US intelligence has also warned about growing risks, particularly given a mismatch between Russian President Vladimir Putin's apparent ambitions and the performance of his military.

Ukraine has started receiving Harpoon anti-ship missiles from Denmark and self-propelled howitzers from the United States, Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Saturday.