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Ukraine city’s factory on fire: governor

Russian shelling of the Azot chemical plant in Ukraine’s frontline city of Sievierodonetsk has caused a powerful fire to break out after a leak of tonnes of oil, regional governor Serhiy Gaidai says.

Speaking on television, Gaidai did not say if the fire at the plant, where hundreds of civilians are sheltering, had been extinguished.

He said there was non-stop fighting in Sievierodonetsk, a small city in the Luhansk region that has become the focus of Russia’s advance in eastern Ukraine.

Neither side has secured a knock-out blow in weeks of fighting that has pulverised chunks of the city.

Ukraine has appealed for swifter deliveries of heavy weapons from overseas to turn the tide of the war with Russian forces – which it says have at least 10 times more artillery pieces than Ukrainian forces. 

Yet even when outgunned, Ukraine’s army has proved more resilient than expected in early phases of fighting.

“We are definitely going to prevail in this war that Russia has started,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy told a conference in Singapore via videolink. 

“It is on the battlefields in Ukraine that the future rules of this world are being decided.”

Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said a verdict on a captured South Korean “mercenary” was being prepared, Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.

The family of one of the two UK fighters sentenced to death in a brief court appearance last week said on Saturday they were “devastated and saddened at the outcome of the illegal show trial” and called for Shaun Pinner to be treated as a prisoner of war and released or exchanged.

The conflict between the neighbours – two of the world’s biggest grain exporters – has reverberated well beyond Ukraine.

“If due to Russian blockades, we are unable to export our foodstuffs, which is so sorely missing in global markets, the world will face an acute and severe food crisis and famine – famine in many countries of Asia and Africa,” Zelenskiy told the Shangri-La Dialogue conference in Singapore.

The United Nations said on Friday up to 19 million more people in the world could face chronic hunger in the next year because of reduced wheat and other food exports.

Ukraine’s deputy agriculture minister said on Saturday up to 300,000 tonnes of grain may have been stored in warehouses in the Black Sea port of Mykolaiv tha were reportedly destroyed by Russian shelling last weekend.

Turkey has tried to secure a deal so Ukraine can resume shipments from its Black Sea ports, which accounted for 98 per cent of its cereal and oilseed exports before the war. 

But Russia says Ukraine must clear the ports of mines and Ukraine says it needs security guarantees so it is not left exposed.

Ukraine has repeatedly called for more foreign arms and closer alignment with the European Union. 

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told Zelenskiy in Kyiv the EU executive’s opinion on making Ukraine an EU candidate would be ready next week.

Gaidai said Russian forces controlled most of Sievierodonetsk but Ukraine controlled the Azot chemical plant where hundreds of civilians are sheltering.

“Our forces are holding an industrial zone of Sievierodonetsk and are destroying the Russian army in the town,” Gaidai said on the Telegram app.

The battle for Sievierodonetsk and its destruction recall weeks of bombardment of the southern port city of Mariupol. 

It was reduced to ruins before Russian forces took control of the city last month, with the last Ukrainian defenders surrendering from their redoubt in the Azovstal steel plant.

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Place of originUkraine city’s factory on fire: governor

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