12 killed in Severodonetsk bombardment

  • The governor of Luhansk says 12 people have been killed in Severodonetsk as Russian forces advanced in the region.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says country’s eastern Donbas region has been “completely destroyed” by Russian forces.
  • US President Joe Biden applauds Congress for approving a $40bn aid package for Ukraine.
  • The Biden administration announces an additional $100m in security assistance to Kyiv, including artillery, radars and other equipment.
  • Blinken accuses Russia of using food as a weapon in Ukraine by holding “hostage” the supply for millions worldwide who rely on the country’s exports.

    Twelve killed in Russian attacks in Severodonetsk

    Russian forces has attacked the cities of Lysychansk and Severodonetsk in Ukraine’s eastern region of Luhansk, according to the region’s governor.

    Serhiy Haidai said in a Telegram post that 12 people were killed in Severodonetsk as a result of the assault, and more than 60 houses were destroyed across the region.

    He added that the attack on Severodonetsk “was unsuccessful – the Russians suffered personnel losses and retreated.” His remarks could not be independently verified.

    ‘15,000 hide in basements’ in sieged Severodonetsk: official

    Up to 15,000 civilians who could not leave the besieged eastern town of Severodonetsk are trying to survive intense shelling of Russian forces, an official says.

    “These people live in bomb shelters, in the basements of apartment buildings, where it is possible to hid, to find shelter from the shelling,” district administration head Alexander Stryuk said in televised remarks.

    He said that the shelling destroyed “up to 70 percent” of houses and apartment buildings in the town that lies only 100 kilometers northwest of rebel-held Luhansk and has been a focus of Russia’s offensive in recent weeks.

    Slovak firm paid euros for Russian gas: CEO

    Slovak state gas importer SPP has paid a bill for Russian natural gas in euros and conversion of the funds to roubles is outside its control, CEO Richard Prokypcak has said in a live interview on Slovak public television RTVS.

    “The foreign exchange conversion is outside any control of SPP, for us really the important moment of fulfilling our commitment is the euro payment,” he said.

    Three wounded in Kharkiv as Russians retreat: governor

    Russian shelling wounded three people in the city of Kharkiv as Russian ground forces keep retreating from around the Ukraine’s second-largest city, according to the the regional governor.

    The Russians used multiple-rocket launchers to pummel several Kharkiv districts and suburbs, Oleh Sinehubov said on Telegram.

    He said that Ukrainian forces battled the Russians near the villages Ternova and Vesele that lie just kilometers south of the Russian border.

    Ukraine says it gets $530m in US UK grants from World Bank fund

    Ukraine has received roughly $530m in US and British grants from a fund set up by the World Bank for donations to the Kyiv government in the wake of Russia’s invasion, according to the the finance ministry.

    The US donated around $50m and Britain 24 million pounds ($30m) and the money had now arrived in the state budget, the finance ministry statement said.

    “These funds will be directed to providing urgent social, humanitarian and health spending, as well as supporting internally displaced people,” the statement said.

    Germany could receive LNG from Qatar as early as 2024: Deputy minister

    Qatar hopes to start sending liquefied natural gas to Germany in 2024, according to the Gulf state’s deputy prime minister who spoke to the German daily Handelsblatt.

    “We want to have our US Golden Pass liquefied natural gas plant in Texas, in which Qatar Energy holds a 70 percent stake, ready to deliver to Germany as early as 2024,” Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, who is also the Qatari foreign minister, was quoted as saying.

    Later Friday, Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani is scheduled to hold talks with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in Berlin.

    Ukraine says 232 children dead amid war

    Ukraine’s human rights ombudsman says that 232 children have died and 427 have been injured since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.

    The numbers come from a register of pre-trial investigations and “other sources that need confirmation,” Lyudmyla Denisova said on Telegram.

    Russia’s forces will likely redeploy to Donbas once Mariupol secured: UK

    Russian forces are likely to shift focus to reinforcing their operations in the Donbas once they have secured Mariupol, the UK’s defence ministry has said.

    “Staunch Ukrainian resistance in Mariupol since the start of the war means Russian forces in the area must be re-equipped and refurbished before they can be redeployed effectively,” the ministry said in its latest intelligence briefing.

    “This can be a lengthy process when done thoroughly,” it added.

    It added that because Russian commanders are under pressure to demonstrate effectiveness, their forces will likely redistribute without adequate preparation, which “risks further force attrition”.

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