Russia has taken control of most of the key eastern Ukrainian city of Sieverodonetsk, the UK ministry of defence has said in its latest intelligence report.
The report, released just before 7am GMT, adds:
The main road into the Sieverodonetsk pocket likely remains under Ukrainian control but Russia continues to make steady local gains, enabled by a heavy concentration of artillery.”
However, this has “not been without cost” and Russian forces have sustained losses in the process, the ministry said.
Crossing the Siverskyy Donets River – which is a natural barrier to its axes of advance – is “vital for Russian forces” as they secure the regions of Luhansk and prepare to switch focus to Donetsk.
Potential crossing sites include between Sieverodonetsk and the neighbouring town of Lysychansk; and near recently-captured Lyman. In both locations, the river line likely still remains controlled by Ukrainian forces, who have destroyed existing bridges.
It is likely Russia will need at least a short tactical pause to re-set for opposed river crossings and subsequent attacks further into Donetsk, where Ukrainian armed forces have prepared defensive positions, according to UK officials.
However, to do so “risks losing some of the momentum they have built over the last week”.
The US earlier confirmed it will send Ukraine four sophisticated, medium-range rocket systems and ammunition to help try to stall Russian progress in the Donbas region.
The medium-range high mobility artillery rocket systems are part of a new $700m tranche of security assistance that also includes helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, radars, tactical vehicles, spare parts and more. It will take at least three weeks to get the precision weapons and trained troops onto the battlefield, the Pentagon said.
Ukraine promised Washington it will not use the rocket systems to hit targets inside Russian territory.
However, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said the supply of US advanced rocket systems to Ukraine increases the risk of a “third country” being dragged into the conflict. Lavrov’s deputy, Sergei Ryabkov, said that Moscow viewed US military aid to Ukraine “extremely negatively” and that it would increase the risk of a direct confrontation.
Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters:
We believe that the United States is purposefully and diligently adding fuel to the fire.”
Lavrov later told a news conference in Saudi Arabia:
It is a direct provocation (by Ukraine), aimed at involving the West in military action.”
Ukraine has commemorated the 243 children killed in Russia’s war with a creative display in the western city of Lviv.
The interactive event, titled ‘excursion that will never happen’, used empty school buses and stuffed toys strapped into seats as a symbol of 243 Ukrainian children killed during Russian attacks.
‘Caution! Children!’ signs littering the streets read.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy has claimed 243 children have been killed so far in the war and 200,000 children have been forcefully taken to Russia, including children from orphanages, children taken with their parents and those separated from their families.
Zelenskiy made note of International Children’s Day during his nightly video address to the nation on Wednesday, claiming 243 children have been killed, 446 have been wounded and 139 are missing.
Speaking in relation to the 200,000 children believed to have been forcefully taken to Russia, he said:
The purpose of this criminal policy is not just to steal people but to make those who are deported forget about Ukraine and unable to return.
“Ukraine cannot be conquered, that our people will not surrender and our children will not become the property of the occupiers.”
Hello and welcome back to the Guardian’s live coverage of the war in Ukraine.
I’m Samantha Lock and I will be brining you all the latest developments until my colleague, Martin Belam, takes the reins a little later on.
Here is a comprehensive run-down of where things currently stand.
- The US will send Ukraine four sophisticated, medium-range rocket systems and ammunition to help try to stall Russian progress in the Donbas region. The rocket systems are part of a new $700m tranche of security assistance that also includes helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, radars, tactical vehicles, spare parts and more. It will take at least three weeks to get the precision weapons and trained troops onto the battlefield, the Pentagon said.
- Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, said the supply of US advanced rocket systems to Ukraine increases the risk of a “third country” being dragged into the conflict. Lavrov’s deputy, Sergei Ryabkov, said that Moscow viewed US military aid to Ukraine “extremely negatively” and that it would increase the risk of a direct confrontation. The Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov added: “We believe that the United States is purposefully and diligently adding fuel to the fire.”
- The US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, said Ukraine has given “assurances” that it will not use long-range weapons systems provided by Washington against targets on Russian territory.
- Following Biden’s announcement, the UK has reportedly asked the US to sign off on a plan to send advanced, medium-range rocket systems to Ukraine within a few weeks. Britain’s prime minister, Boris Johnson, spoke with Biden about the transfer of US-made M270 multiple launch rocket systems, which will be followed by a discussion between his foreign secretary, Liz Truss, and the US secretary of state, Antony Blinken, on Thursday, Politico cited a source as saying.
- Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, conceded that Kyiv’s forces are currently suffering up to 100 fatalities and 500 wounded every day. The most difficult situation is in the east of Ukraine and southern Donetsk and Luhansk, Zelenskiy said in an interview with the US Newsmax television channel. Western officials said Ukraine’s estimate that it is losing 60 to 100 troops a day killed is “pretty credible”.
- A Russian missile hit rail lines in the western Lviv region, a key conduit for supplies of western weapons and other supplies, officials said. Lviv regional governor Maksym Kozytskiy said five people were wounded in the strike. Anton Gerashchenko, an adviser to the country’s interior minister, said the Russians hit the Beskidy railway tunnel in the Carpathian Mountains in an apparent effort to cut a key railway link and disrupt shipments of weapons and fuel.
- Russia said it has completed testing of its hypersonic Zircon cruise missile and will deploy it before the end of the year on a new frigate of its Northern Fleet. President Vladimir Putin has described the Zircon as part of a new generation of unrivalled arms systems, travelling at nine times the speed of sound.
- Russian troops have been accused of committing acts of torture against residents in the Russian-controlled Kherson region in southern Ukraine. The BBC has gathered multiple first-hand testimonies from Kherson residents who say they were tortured while in the hands of Russian forces.
- Denmark has voted overwhelmingly to join the EU’s common defence policy, becoming the last of the bloc’s members to sign up. The referendum on Wednesday, in which voters backed the government’s proposal by 66.9% to 33.1%, followed historic applications by Denmark’s previously non-aligned Nordic neighbours, Finland and Sweden, to join Nato last month.
- Nato’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, said he will convene a meeting in Brussels in the coming days with senior officials from Sweden, Finland and Turkey to discuss Turkey’s opposition to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance. Blinken said there was a “strong consensus within Nato, broadly, to support the rapid accession of Sweden and Finland” to Nato and he was confident it would happen.