Ukraine welcomes new US arms as Russia advances in Donbas

Britain ready to help end Russian blockade of Ukrainian ports to avert grain crisis

Kyiv has welcomed the delivery of powerful US rocket systems that it hopes will help turn the tide of a brutal artillery battle with Russian forces in the Donbas region, which Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Moscow was intent on razing to the ground.

Russia’s military has used its greater firepower to slowly push back Ukraine’s defensive line in Donbas in grinding battles over recent weeks, and now controls much of the city of Sievierodonetsk and is approaching nearby Lysychansk.

“The Russians are advancing without trying to spare ammunition or troops, and they aren’t running out of either,” said Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region which with neighbouring Donetsk region makes up the industrial area known as Donbas.

“They have an edge in heavy artillery and the number of troops … Part of the Luhansk region still remains under Ukrainian control, defying the Russians and causing their fury and desire to burn it to the ground,” he added.

Russia launched an all-out war on Ukraine in February with the stated aim of “denazifying” and demilitarising the pro-western democracy and protecting the Russian speakers of the Donbas and other eastern and southern regions from supposed “genocide.”

The invasion has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced some 14 million and reduced much of the Donbas to ruins, as Ukraine has put up a fierce fight with the help of western weapons.

Ukrainian defence minister Oleksiy Reznikov thanked the US on Thursday for delivery of a multiple rocket-launch system (MLRS) known as Himars, which can fire missiles farther, faster and more accurately than similar Russian weapons.

“Himars have arrived to Ukraine … Summer will be hot for Russian occupiers. And the last one for some of them,” he wrote on Twitter.

The M142 Himars system (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System)

Mr Zelenskiy said Donbas was enduring “massive air and artillery strikes”.

“The goal of the occupiers in this direction remains the same – they want to destroy the whole Donbas step by step. That is why we repeatedly emphasise the acceleration of weapons supplies to Ukraine. Parity is needed on the battlefield as soon as possible to stop this devilish armada,” he added.

Britain and Germany have joined the US in pledging to send modern MLRS systems to Kyiv, but the three powers are expected to deliver a total of only 10 launchers initially, leaving Russia with a huge advantage in the size of its arsenal.

The economic impact of the war continues to widen: Russia has now stopped or reduced gas flow to 12 EU states and continues to bomb and blockade Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, preventing the export of some 20 million tonnes of grain.

“We are very clear that this grain crisis is urgent, that it needs to be solved within the next month otherwise we could see devastating consequences,” British foreign secretary Liz Truss said after talks in Turkey.

“It’s very clear that Ukrainian ports must be protected, there needs to be safe passage for commercial vessels. The United Kingdom is offering our expertise on all of those fronts … but it is going to require an international effort.”