Ukrainian and Russian forces battled fiercely for control of a key eastern city Wednesday, while fears of a global food crisis escalated as millions of tons of grain pile up inside the besieged country, unable to be exported by sea because of the war.
Follow our live updates below.
Wednesday's key points
- The embattled eastern city of Sievierodonetsk is now "largely" under Russian control, according to the region's governor.
- Russia and Turkey have voiced support for the creation of a safe maritime corridor in the Black Sea so Ukraine can export grain to global markets but Ukraine says Russian promise not to use safe shipping corridors to attack Odesa is not credible.
- Zelenskyy has said that victory will only be achieved when Russian forces are out of the 'entire' Ukraine, including Crimea and separatist areas.
- Hundreds of dead Ukrainian fighters were handed over to Kyiv by Russia. Most were killed defending the Azovstal steel mill in the southern city of Mariupol.
- Ukraine set a release date for its 'book of executioners', which will detail alleged Russian war crimes comitted in the country. Russia has repeatedly denied such allegations.
Zelenskyy meets American philanthropist Howard Buffet to discuss rebuilding efforts.
American businessman and philanthropist Howard Buffett says he wants to help rebuild Ukraine’s infrastructure, remove landmines and improve nutrition at schools.
He met with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in Kyiv earlier on Wednesday.
Zelenskyy said that one project discussed would restore the water distribution system in the Black Sea city of Odesa. Another would support Ukrainians who have been displaced from their homes.
Buffett, the son of billionaire Warren Buffett, serves on several corporate boards and is active in many foundations and charities.
In 2017, he was also sworn in as interim sheriff of Macon County, Illinois. Buffett recalled that role as he gave the president a gift Wednesday.
“You are the top law man here in Ukraine, so I’m giving you my old sheriff badge from when I was sheriff,” Buffett said. “That’s for you. So, no one can question, you’re number one, you’re always number one.”
Russia suffering major losses in Severodonetsk, says Zelenskyy
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy says defenders in the city of Sievierodonetsk were inflicting major losses on Russian troops during what he called a very fierce and very difficult battle.
"In many respects, the fate of the Donbas is being decided there," he said in an online address.
Russia economy to shrink by 15 per cent, finance body says
Russia’s economy will shrink by 15 per cent this year and another 3 per cent in 2023 due to Western sanctions, according to the Institute of International Finance, a global banking trade group.
Propping up Russia's currency are strong oil and natural gas sales and the Russian central bank, which has raised interest rates and imposed capital controls to keep money from fleeing the country.
President Vladimir Putin said this week that unemployment and inflation are decreasing, backing up his frequent claims that Russia is succeeding despite Western sanctions.
Still, the finance institute argued that the sanctions, partly by encouraging foreign companies to abandon Russia, “are unraveling its economy, wiping out more than a decade of economic growth, and some of the most meaningful consequences have yet to be felt.’’
United Nation seeks deal to export food and fertilizers
The United Nations has been working on a package that would export millions of tons of grain and other commodities from Ukraine and Russia.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he has asked Rebeca Grynspan, the Secretary-General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development and UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths, to coordinate a deal that would allow Ukrainian produced food to be exported and for unimpeded access to global markets for Russian food and fertilizers.
Earlier at the at presentation of a UN report into the repercussions of the conflict he warned:
"The World Food Program estimates the ripple effects of the war could increase the number of people facing severe food insecurity by 47 million in 2022."
"This year's food crisis is about lack of access, next year's could be about lack of food" Guterres said.
Germany pledges to equip Ukraine with heavy weaponry
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz says his country will support Ukraine by delivering heavy weaponry to the country as its war with Russia continues.
Ukraine has long desired advanced weapons for shooting down aircraft and knocking out artillery.
"We have also now decided that we will deliver the IRIS-T system, which can protect the airspace of a city like Odesa or Kyiv. Something very special that is, of course, highly sought after," said Scholz.
Germany has faced criticism for a perceived reluctance to deliver heavy weapons to Ukraine, which the government rejects.
Meanwhile, the German government says it wants to temporarily keep additional coal-fired power plants on standby for almost two years to stave off a possible electricity shortage in case natural gas supplies from Russia are suddenly reduced.
Germany is trying to wean itself off Russian gas due to the war in Ukraine and expects to finish doing so in 2024.
But the government fears that Moscow might cut off supplies suddenly in response to the economic sanctions imposed on Russia by Western nations, including Germany.
A draft law agreed by Cabinet would ensure that coal-fired plants previously scheduled for closure remain in functional condition.
Severodonetsk 'largely' under Russian control says Lugansk governor
Sievierodonetsk is "largely" under Moscow's control, while its twin city of Lyssytchansk is experiencing "enormous destruction," the governor of the Lugansk region said in an update on the situation in the key eastern city.
In an online post, Serhiy Haidai said that Moscow forces "control a large part of Severodonetsk.
"The industrial area is still ours, there are no Russians there...the fighting is only on the streets inside the city."
He said there was no chance of Ukrainian troops in the Luhansk region being encircled.
Russian forces temporarily control 90 per cent of the region, he added.
Earlier on Wednesday, Haïdaï admitted that the Ukrainian forces “may have to withdraw” soon from Severodonetsk in view of the Russian assaults, for better-fortified positions.
1.6 billion people affected by war in Ukraine, warns UN
The negative consequences of the Russian invasion of Ukraine are worsening, affecting 1.6 billion people, Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has warned.
"The impact of war on food security, energy and finance is systemic, severe and accelerating," he said.
"For people around the world, war threatens to unleash an unprecedented wave of hunger and misery, leaving social and economic chaos in its wake."
According to Guterres, if "this year's food crisis is linked to a lack of access" to food, "next year could be a question of a lack of food".
The UN chief insisted that the only way to "stop the storm that is brewing," is "the Russian invasion of Ukraine must stop," referring to the ongoing negotiations on unblocking Ukrainian grain stuck in the Black Sea and unhindered access to world markets for Russian food and fertilizers.
According to a UN report, "94 countries, home to approximately 1.6 billion people, are seriously exposed to at least one dimension of the crisis - finance, food or energy - and unable to cope with it".
"Of these 1.6 billion, 1.2 billion or three-quarters live in countries that are severely exposed and vulnerable simultaneously in all three dimensions". Going forward, “no country or community will be spared from this cost of living crisis,” the document states.
The report continues that “the war could increase the number of food-insecure people by 47 million people in 2022, bringing it to 323 million by the end of the year”.
To alleviate the crisis, "concrete efforts must be made to ensure that essential supplies of food and energy reach the most vulnerable", the report argues.
UN registers more than 7 million border crossings from Ukraine
More than 7 million people have crossed the border from Ukraine since war broke out there, according to the UN Refugee Agency.
A total of 7,023,559 border crossings have been recorded since the Russian invasion began on February 24, according to the agency's latest tally.
The number of individual refugees from Ukraine recorded across Europe stood at 4,712,076, with Poland, Russia and Moldova among the top host countries, it said.
Ukraine pushed back to outskirts of Sievierodonetsk, governor says
Ukrainian forces battling Russian troops in a key eastern city of Sievierodonetsk are on the cusp of retreat, though the regional governor insists they are still fighting “for every centimetre” of the city.
Ukrainian special forces launched a counteroffensive days ago and cleared almost half of the city, but it made no sense for them to stay when Russia started levelling the area with shelling and air strikes, Serhiy Haidai, was quoted as saying to the RBC-Ukraine media outlet.
"Our forces now again control only the outskirts of the city. But the fighting is still going on, our forces are defending Sievierodonetsk, it is impossible to say the Russians completely control the city," he said.
Haidai added that "everything the Russian army has — artillery, mortars, tanks, aviation — all of that, they’re using in Sievierodonetsk in order to wipe the city off the face of the Earth and capture it completely,” he said.
Earlier, on the Telegram messaging app, he said Ukrainian forces were still fighting “for every centimetre of the city.”
Haidai indicated they could pull back to positions that are easier to defend. The city across the river, Lysychansk, sits on higher ground. He has previously suggested forces could have to pull back in order to avoid being surrounded.