KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — A regional governor in eastern Ukraine says that at least six civilians have been killed by the latest Russian shelling in a town at the epicenter of fighting three months into the war.
Luhansk region Gov. Serhiy Haidai said Wednesday that another eight people have been wounded in the shelling of Sievierodonetsk over the past 24 hours. He accused the Russian troops of deliberately targeting shelters where civilians were hiding.
The town is located in in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland of Donbas, where the Russian forces have been pressing their offensive despite stiff Ukrainian resistance.
Moscow-backed separatists have fought Ukrainian forces in the Donbas for eight years and hold large swaths of territory. Sievierodonetsk and neighboring cities are the only part of the Donbas’ Luhansk region still under Ukrainian government control.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said late Tuesday that the country’s forces in the region faced a difficult situation.
“Practically the full might of the Russian army, whatever they have left, is being thrown at the offensive there,” he said in his nightly address to the nation. “Liman, Popasna, Sievierodonetsk, Slaviansk — the occupiers want to destroy everything there.”
A solution to getting wheat out of Ukraine for export doesn’t appear to be imminent.
British military authorities say Ukraine’s overland export routes are “highly unlikely” to offset the problems caused by Russia’s blockade of the Black Sea port of Odessa, putting further pressure on global grain prices.
The U.K. Ministry of Defense, in an update posted Wednesday morning, says there has been no “significant” merchant shipping in or out of Odessa since the start of the Russian invasion.
The ministry says that the blockade, combined with the shortage of overland shipping routes, means that significant supplies of grain remain in storage and can’t be exported.
In other news from the war zone, the Russian military says the key Ukrainian port of Mariupol is functioning again after three months of fighting.
Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday that the military has finished clearing the port of mines and it is now fully operational.
The Russian forces took control of Mariupol, the strategic port on the Sea of Azov, after the last Ukrainian defenders at the giant Azovstal seaside steel plant laid down their weapons.