Zelenskyy vows to retake south, as NATO warns of long Ukraine war

  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg warns that the war in Ukraine could drag on for years and calls for the supply of more state-of-the-art weaponry to Ukrainian troops.
  • TASS news agency says two top Ukrainian commanders who defended Mariupol’s Azovstal steel plant have been transferred to Russia for investigations.
  • Luhansk’s Governor Serhiy Haidai says he is preparing “for the worst” as Russian forces intensify their assault on eastern cities.
  • Russia says that its offensive against Sievierodonetsk was proceeding successfully after it took control of Metyolkine, a district on the eastern outskirts of the city.
  • Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits the front lines in Mykolaiv and Odesa, declares Ukrainian troops “will definitely” win against Russia.

Here are all the latest updates:

Russia says eastern attack is going well

Russia said that its offensive against Sievierodonetsk in eastern Ukraine was proceeding successfully after it took control of a district in the outskirts of the city.

“The offensive in the Sievierodonetsk direction is developing successfully,” Russian Defence Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said in a video statement. He said the settlement of Metyolkine, on the eastern outskirts of the city, had been taken.

“The armed forces of the Russian Federation continue to strike military targets on the territory of Ukraine,” he said.

Konashenkov said long-range Kalibr cruise missiles struck a command centre in the Dnipropetrovsk region, killing Ukrainian generals and officers, including from the general staff.

Russia says it struck Kharkiv tank repair plant

Russia’s Iskander missiles struck a Kharkiv tank repair plant in Ukraine, the Russian defence ministry has said.

The ministry also said it had destroyed 10 howitzers and up to 20 military vehicles in the Ukrainian city of Mykolaiv that had been supplied by Western countries over the past 10 days.

Italy’s Eni takes stake in giant Qatar gas project

Days after Russia slashed supplies to Italy, Eni was announced as a partner in Qatar Energy’s project to expand production from the world’s biggest natural gas field.

Eni joins France’s TotalEnergies, which has a 6.25 percent share worth an estimated $2bn in the $28bn North Field East project. More partners are set to be announced.

Russian, Ukrainian forces likely deserting: UK intelligence

Ukrainian and Russian units fighting in the eastern Donbas region are likely suffering desertions in recent weeks, UK Defence Ministry reports on the basis of information from the British intelligence services, adding that the Russian morale “highly likely remains especially troubled”.

“Cases of whole Russian units refusing orders and armed stand-offs between officers and their troops continue to occur,” read the statement. “The Russian authorities likely struggle to bring legal pressure to bear on military dissenters, hampered by the invasion’s official status as a ‘special military operation’ rather than as a war,” it added.

The ministry also said both sides have continued to conduct heavy artillery bombardments on axes to the north, east and south of the Sieverodonetsk pocket, but with little change in the front line.

Germany plans further measures to make up for Russian gas

German Economy Minister Robert Habeck is planning additional measures to reduce gas consumption and replace supplies in view of lower gas deliveries from Russia, according to plans seen by dpa news agency.

The use of gas for power generation and industry is to be reduced and the filling of storage facilities is to be prioritised before the winter.

The government is providing billions in funds to finance the measures, dpa learned from government circles.

Russian troops to advance towards Kharkiv: Ukraine official

The situation north of Kharkiv, Ukraine’s second-largest city, is quite difficult as Russian forces have been trying to get closer to shell the city again, a Ukraine interior ministry official has said.

“Russia is trying to make Kharkiv a front-line city,” Vadym Denysenko, a ministry adviser, told Ukraine’s national television.

A view shows a tram depot destroyed by a Russian missile strike, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv, Ukraine
A view shows a tram depot destroyed by a Russian missile strike, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in Kharkiv, Ukraine [Vitalii Hnidyi/Reuters]

Zelenskyy promises to retake Ukraine’s south

The Ukrainian president promises to retake areas of southern Ukraine occupied by Russian troops.

“We will not hand over the south to anyone,” Zelenskyy said in an overnight video address, shortly after returning from a visit to the southern front lines. He said Ukrainian forces will take back “everything that belongs to us”.

Ukraine will also restore safe access to the sea in the process, he said.

Russian attacks intensified on Ukraine’s battlefields

The industrial city of Severodonetsk, a prime target in Moscow’s offensive to seize full control of Luhansk – one of the two provinces making up the Donbas – faced heavy artillery and rocket fire again, the Ukrainian military has said.

“The situation in Severodonetsk is very difficult,” said Haidai, the Ukrainian-appointed governor of Luhansk, adding that Russian forces, using drones for air reconnaissance, were adjusting strikes quickly in response to defence changes.

“Areas near the bridges have been heavily shelled again,” Haidai said in an online post, adding that the Azot chemical plant, where hundreds of people had been sheltering, was hit twice.

Smoke and flame rise after a military strike on a compound of Sievierodonetsk's Azot Chemical Plant, as Russia's attack on Ukraine continues, in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine June 18, 2022.
Smoke and flame rise after a military attack on a compound of Severodonetsk’s Azot chemical plant in Lysychansk, Luhansk region, Ukraine [Oleksandr Ratushniak/Reuters]

Two dead, 15 wounded in Novomoskovsk: Governor

At least one person has died and two wounded after a fuel tank exploded in the district of Novomoskovsk as rescue workers have been trying to extinguish a fire caused by a Russian rocket attack, Governor Valentyn Reznichenko said on his Telegram channel.

On Saturday, at least 13 people were injured and one killed in the attack, Reznichenko said.

In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Saturday, June 18, 2022, a Russian KA-52 helicopter gunship fires rockets on a mission at an undisclosed location in Ukraine.
In this photo released by the Russian Defense Ministry Press Service on Saturday a Russian KA-52 helicopter gunship fires rockets on a mission at an undisclosed location in Ukraine [Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP]

Gazprom’s gas exports to Europe via Ukraine slightly up

Russian gas producer Gazprom says its supply of gas to Europe through Ukraine via the Sudzha entry point has risen to 41.7 million cubic metres (mcm) from 41.4mcm on Saturday.

An application to supply gas via another major entry point, Sokhranovka, was rejected by Ukraine, Gazprom said.

Top Azovstal commanders transferred to Russia for investigation: Report

Two top Ukrainian commanders who defended the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol have been transferred to Russia for investigation, according to TASS.

Citing an unnamed Russian law enforcement source, TASS said on Saturday that Svyatoslav Palamar, a deputy commander of the Azov battalion, and Serhiy Volynsky, commander of the 36th Marine Brigade, had been moved to Russia.

Special forces officers transferred them from Donetsk “to conduct investigative activities with them”, TASS cited the source as saying. “Other officers of various Ukrainian units were also transported to Russia.”

Hundreds of fighters were captured by Russian forces in May after a months-long siege of Mariupol. Moscow said at the time they were moved to breakaway Russian-backed entities in eastern Ukraine.

NATO’s Stoltenberg warns of a years-long war in Ukraine

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has warned that the war in Ukraine could last years as he called for state-of-the-art weaponry for Ukrainian troops.

“We must prepare for the fact that it could take years. We must not let up in supporting Ukraine,” he told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper.

“Even if the costs are high, not only for military support, also because of rising energy and food prices.”

Read more here.

Ukraine suffers military setback near Severodonestk

The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces says Ukrainian forces have suffered a military setback in Metolkine, to the southeast of the city of Severodonetsk.

“As a result of artillery fire and an assault, the enemy has partial success in the village of Metolkine, trying to gain a foothold,” it said in a Facebook post.

But the military said Ukrainian forces had stopped the Russian advance near the village of Syrotyne.

Governor of Luhansk preparing ‘for the worst’

Luhansk Governor Haidai has told the AFP news agency that Russian forces are “shelling our troop positions 24 hours a day”.

“There’s an expression: prepare for the worst and the best will come by itself,” Haidai said from the town of Lysychansk, where preparations for street fighting are under way: soldiers digging in, putting up barbed wire and police using burned-out vehicles to slow traffic on roads.

Haidai called for supplies of “long-range weaponry to arrive as soon as possible”, adding: “The fact that the West is helping us is good, but it’s [too] late.”

Hello and welcome to Al Jazeera’s continuing coverage of the war in Ukraine.

Go here for all the key developments from Saturday, June 19.

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