Here is an update on the situation on the 106th day of the war based on information from AFP journalists on site, official Ukrainian and Russian statements, Western sources, analysts and international organizations.
– Eastern Front –
Ukraine could retake Severodonetsk “in 2, 3 days” as soon as it has “long-range” Western artillery weapons, Sergei Gaïdaï, governor of the Lugansk region, said on Thursday.
But in the meantime, the Russian army has regained ground in recent days in this industrial city, essential for the control of the entire Donbass mining basin, and again controls “largely” the city, according to the governor.
The situation there was “very dynamic” on Thursday with street fighting and “constant” Russian bombardments on areas still controlled by the Ukrainians.
The nearby town of Lysytchansk is fully controlled by the Ukrainian army but is under “powerful” shelling, he said, accusing Russian forces of “deliberately” targeting hospitals and humanitarian aid centres.
The Russians are also putting pressure on the two fronts, North and South, intended to take a stranglehold on the Ukrainian forces in the East.
They “have increased their efforts to advance south of Izioum,” said the British Ministry of Defense.
The American Institute for the Study of War (ISW) for its part evokes a Russian desire to “outflank the Ukrainian positions in the region” to avoid frontal combat and cross the Siversky Donets river.
The ISW also mentions fighting around the cities of Sviatohirsk, Lyman, Izium and Slovyansk. Further south, the Zaporizhia region is the target of ground and artillery attacks by Russian forces.
– Food Front –
“The impact of war on food security, energy and finance is systemic, severe and accelerating,” UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned on Wednesday. “For people around the world, war threatens to unleash an unprecedented wave of hunger and misery, leaving social and economic chaos in its wake.”
The blocking of Ukrainian ports by the Russian Black Sea fleet, including Odessa, the country’s main port, is paralyzing its grain exports, particularly wheat, of which it was before the war on the way to becoming the world’s third largest exporter.
President Zelensky has called for Russia’s exclusion from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), with kyiv accusing Moscow of blocking but also stealing Ukrainian grain. “What would be the place of Russia if it causes famine for at least 400 million people, or even more than a billion?”, He launched.
– NATO and Russians in the Baltic –
Several dozen Russian ships took part Thursday in military exercises in the Baltic Sea, a strategic area which is the subject of growing tensions and where NATO is also conducting maneuvers.
According to the Russian Ministry of Defense, around 60 ships and 40 planes and helicopters are taking part in these exercises, which are also taking place on land, in training centers in the Russian territory of Kaliningrad landlocked in the EU.
NATO is engaged in the Baltops 2022 maritime exercise until June 17, hosted by Sweden, a candidate for the Alliance with Finland, and bringing together 45 ships and 75 aircraft from 16 countries.
– Tens of thousands dead –
There is no overall assessment of the civilian victims of the conflict. For the city of Mariupol (southeast), which fell in May after a terrible siege, the Ukrainian authorities evoke a balance sheet of around 20,000 dead.
On the military level, Western military sources evoke 12,000 to 15,000 Russian soldiers killed, when kyiv claims to have killed more than 30,000 enemy soldiers.
Ukrainian forces lose up to 100 soldiers killed and 500 wounded every day, Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksiy Reznikov said on Thursday. No independent statistics are available.
– A third of displaced or refugee Ukrainians –
Nearly 5 million Ukrainians have been registered as refugees in 44 European countries since the Russian invasion on February 24, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Thursday.
They are much more to have left the country: more than 7.3 million crossings without return had been recorded as of June 7 at the Ukrainian borders. 2.3 million have returned, says UNHCR.
The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) also estimates that more than 8 million Ukrainians have been displaced within the country.
Before the Russian invasion, Ukraine had 37 million inhabitants, not counting the territories that had no longer been under the control of kyiv since 2014 and the annexation of Crimea by Russia.