War in the neighborhood: IPN updates

Heavy fighting near Severodonetsk

Over half of Sieverodonetsk is now likely occupied by Russian forces, including Chechen fighters, the U.K. Ministry of Defense said Wednesday in an intelligence update.

The ministry said fighting intensified in the streets of the key eastern Ukrainian city on Monday and Tuesday, “with Russian forces pushing closer to the town Centre.” Sieverodonetsk is located in the war-torn Luhansk Oblast of eastern Ukraine's disputed Donbas region.

“Russian ground operations remain tightly focused, with the weight of fire power concentrated within a small sector of Luhansk Oblast,” the ministry said.

“Beyond the Donbas, Russia continues to conduct long-range missile strikes against infrastructure across Ukraine,” the ministry added. “The strategically important bridge links Ukraine with Romania and with Ukraine's ports on the Danube, which have become critical to Ukrainian exports after the blockade of Ukrainian Black Sea ports by Russia.”

U.S. is a reliable ally of Ukraine

In an exclusive interview with Sky News, General Paul Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency (NSA), confirmed for the first time that the US had “conducted a series of operations” in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

He noted that he is concerned “every single day” about the risk of a Russian cyber-attack targeting the US and said that the hunt forward activities were an effective way of protecting both America as well as allies. “My job is to provide a series of options to the secretary of defense and the president, and so that’s what I do. This is why we’re working with a series of partners to ensure we prevent that, not only against the United States but against our allies as well,” he stated.

Ukrainians will have weapons similar to those of the invaders

The White House confirmed that that the U.S. administration is sending medium-range advanced rocket systems to Ukraine, responding to a top request from Ukrainian officials who say the weapons are necessary to curb the advance of Russian forces in the east.

The US is “adding fuel to the fire” by supplying weapons to Kiev, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on Wednesday in response to US President Joe Biden’s decision to provide more advanced missile systems to Ukraine.

“We believe that the United States is purposefully and diligently adding fuel to the fire,” Peskov told reporters on a regular conference call. “Such supplies do not contribute to the Ukrainian leadership's willingness to resume peace negotiations.”

Peskov also added the Kremlin does not trust Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky's words that Kyiv would not use multiple launch rocket systems to attack the Russian territory if they receive them from the US.

If they don’t tell, they have what to hide

Andrey Kartapolov, head of Russia's rubber-stamp parliament’s defense committee and former Russian military officer who previously served as the deputy defense minister, said on Wednesday that “we have practically ceased to lose people.” “Currently, of course, there are wounded, but there are no such number of dead,” Kartapolov added, stating this is why the government had not provided an updated death toll in a while.

According to the Russian government’s latest official numbers — which were released back in late March — 1,351 troops have been killed in Ukraine. Western intelligence agencies have placed the Russian death toll somewhere between 7,000 and 15,000. Ukraine’s official numbers put the Russian death toll as high as 30,000.

Ukraine, Poland adopt joint statement

The governments of Ukraine and Poland call on the international community to impose an energy embargo on Russia and strengthen other sanctions. This is stated in a joint statement adopted following the Ukrainian-Polish Intergovernmental Consultations on June 1.

As noted, the parties “called on the international community to step up sanctions against the Russian Federation, including imposing embargo on Russian energy supplies and next restrictions on road and sea transport.”

The governments of the two countries also reaffirmed their readiness to continue joint efforts to end the Russian Federation’s aggression against Ukraine and to restore Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Negotiations will be resumed when time comes

Mykhaylo Podolyak, an aide to Ukraine's president and envoy to previous peace talks in the ongoing three-month-long war with Russia, has blasted Moscow’s credibility in the context of any potential deal. Podolyak said Moscow is lying when it accuses Kyiv of refusal to negotiate but said blunt force is the only way to thwart the Russian invasion.

He accused Moscow of hypocrisy and said in a tweet that until Russian troops withdraw, “negotiations are being conducted by a separate 'delegation' on the front line.” “Any agreement with Russia isn't worth a broken penny,” Podolyak wrote on Telegram. “Is it possible to negotiate with a country that always lies cynically and propagandistically?”

Bulgaria opens beach season for refugees

War refugees from Ukraine are to be moved from Bulgarian hotels on the Black Sea Coast to reception centers before the holiday season begins, the government in Sofia said.

“Bulgaria can no longer afford to entertain Ukrainian citizens in hotels on the beach,” Deputy Prime Minister Kalina Konstantinova stated.

The relocation will begin in the next few days. The tourist season in the Black Sea usually begins in the first half of June. According to Bulgarian media reports, only 500 of the about 90,000 refugees so far have made use of the possibility to move from hotels to state-run holiday homes in the interior of the country.

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