A woman gathers belongings from her destroyed home in Slovyansk A woman gathers belongings from her destroyed home in Slovyansk  (AFP or licensors)

Fighting escalates in eastern Ukraine as US pledges to send rocket systems

US President Joe Biden pledges to send Ukraine more advanced rocket artillery systems, as Ukraine struggles to defend eastern territories against Russia’s ongoing invasion.

By Stefan J. Bos

Despite fierce resistance, Russia's military continues to inch out gains in Ukraine's eastern Donbas region.

Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned Moscow over strikes on a chemical plant in the eastern city of Severodonetsk. Those in the town have been warned not to leave bomb shelters and urged to prepare masks to protect against toxic fumes.

Elsewhere in the Donbas region, human suffering continues as well.

In Slovyansk, residents are desperate after at least three people were killed and six injured in a Russian missile strike on this eastern city. "I feel devastated. Where did all this come from and until when," a crying woman said in her destroyed apartment. "We were living very well, quietly, calmly. And now what is this?" she wonders. “Where am I with all these things now?"

Another woman tearfully agrees. "Okay, we can deal with all this destruction. But life, human life, human life, how?"

But the death toll keeps rising as Russian forces continue further into Ukraine's industrial heartland after facing initial defeats elsewhere in the country.

In response, the United States is rushing to send advanced rocket artillery systems. US President Joe Biden said the goal was to help Ukraine defend itself.

Agreement not to target Russian territory

However, President Biden earlier said that Washington was not encouraging Ukraine to strike beyond its borders. "We're not going to send to Ukraine rocket systems that strike into Russia," Biden told reporters.

But Russia isn't convinced. In another sign of mounting East-West tensions, Russia's nuclear forces reportedly began holding drills in the Ivanovo province, northeast of Moscow.

Russia's Interfax news agency cited the Russian defense ministry as saying Wednesday that some 1,000 servicemen are exercising in intense maneuvers.

The ministry said they use over 100 vehicles, including Yars intercontinental ballistic missile launchers.

The drills are held as NATO considers a bid from Sweden and Finland to join the Western military alliance.

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01 June 2022, 16:47