Russian troops on Wednesday pressed closer to the centre of a factory city in their drive to grab a swathe of eastern Ukraine, while the United States said it would supply advanced rockets to Kyiv to help it force Moscow to negotiate an end to the war.
Ukraine’s General Staff said Russian forces, now 98 days into their invasion, were pounding infrastructure in eastern and southern regions including the symbolically important industrial city of Sievierodonetsk, which they entered on May 27. It has been the main focus of their ground offensive for several weeks.
Sievierodonetsk is a Soviet-era city that houses a large chemical factory. According to the local governor, a Russian airstrike hit a large chemical plant in the city on Tuesday, blowing up a tank of toxic nitric acid.
Russia “attacked the Azot factory from a plane, resulting on the release of toxic substances,” Governor Serhiy Gaidai said, urging residents to remain inside. Reuters could not independently confirm the cause of the incident.
President Joe Biden announced the supply of precision rocket systems and munitions that could strike at long-range Russian targets, part of a $700 million weapons package expected to be unveiled on Wednesday.
“We have moved quickly to send Ukraine a significant amount of weaponry and ammunition so it can fight on the battlefield and be in the strongest possible position at the negotiating table,” Biden wrote in an opinion piece in the New York Times.
A senior Biden administration official said the new supplies – which comes on top of billions of dollars worth of equipment such as drones and anti-aircraft missiles – included the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS), which Kyiv has said is “crucial” to counter Russian missile attacks.