A photo released by Russia's Defense Ministry on June 1 shows Uragan multiple-rocket launchers firing at Ukrainian troops at an undisclosed location.
Russian troops are inching closer to overrunning the key eastern city of Syevyerodonetsk following days of fierce battles with the Ukrainian defenders as Washington warned the conflict could could last many more months.
Britain, meanwhile, joined the United States and Germany in announcing that it will send Ukraine advanced weapons systems to help defend itself against Russia.
In the industrial hub of Syevyerodonetsk, which has become Moscow's primary target in its offensive in eastern Ukraine, the regional head of the military administration, Serhiy Hayday, said that 80 percent of the city was now under Russian control. "Street fighting continues," Hayday said on Telegram, vowing that Ukrainian forces "will fight for Syevyerodonetsk until the end." Oleksandr Motuzyanyk, spokesman for Ukraine's Defense Ministry, said there was fighting in the streets in Syevyerodonetsk and the Russians had reached the city center, but "the Ukrainian armed forces are actively resisting them." Hayday warned that a number of civilians were sheltering from Russian shelling under a chemical plant in Syevyerodonetsk and authorities fear it may still have stocks of dangerous materials. In its daily intelligence bulletin on June 2, Britain's Ministry of Defense concurred that Russia has taken control of most of Syevyerodonetsk.
It said that the main road into the city "likely" remains under Ukrainian control but Russians are making steady gains with the aid of heavy artillery fire.
President Volodymyr Zelensky again called the situation in the east "very difficult," telling U.S. newsgroup Newsmax in an interview broadcast on June 1 that Ukraine is losing 60 to 100 soldiers each day and around 500 are wounded in action.
However, the British intelligence bulletin suggested that the Russians, who have sustained losses during the intense offensive, will probably need "at least a short tactical pause" to prepare for further attacks into the Donetsk region, where the Ukrainians have prepared defensive positions. U.S. President Joe Biden formally on June 1 announced that high-mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS), capable of striking targets as far as 80 kilometers away, were included in a new $700 million weapons package for Ukraine. The announced consignment of high-tech weaponry will also include helicopters, Javelin anti-tank weapon systems, tactical vehicles, spare parts and more, according to unnamed officials.
The U.S. decision to send more advanced weaponry to Kyiv was followed in quick succession by similar announcements from Germany and Britain.
German Chancellor Olaf Scholz on June 1 pledged to send Ukraine high-tech anti-aircraft IRIS-T missiles and radar systems amid criticism from opposition members that Berlin hasn't provided enough military aid in the fight against Russia's unprovoked invasion. In London, Defense Secretary Ben Wallace also announced on June 1 that the United Kingdom will send multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) to Ukraine. Britain will send M270 launchers able to strike targets up to 80 kilometers away, offering "a significant boost in capability for the Ukrainian forces," according to a statement from the British Foreign Office. The move has been "coordinated closely" with the U.S. move to provide Ukraine with its HIMARS, the statement added. The British government also said that Ukrainian troops will be trained in Britain on how to use the launchers, so the effectiveness of the launchers can be maximized. Although the HIMARS systems pledged by Washington and London stop short of the long-range rockets repeatedly requested by Kyiv -- the M270 MLRS and the M142 that have a range of up to 300 kilometers -- the news provoked the anger of Moscow. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on June 1 that Ukraine's demands to the West regarding the supply of advanced rocket launchers went beyond "all limits and decency" and was a "direct provocation intended to draw the West into the fighting." He warned that the multiple rocket launchers would raise the risk of an expanded conflict. "Sane Western politicians understand those risks well," he said. Earlier on June 1, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, "We believe that the United States is purposefully and diligently adding fuel to the fire." Peskov added the Kremlin does not trust Zelenskiy's assurances that Kyiv would not use the new weaponry to attack the Russian territory. Blinken dismissed the suggestion that the United States is risking escalation. "It is Russia that is attacking Ukraine, not the other way around," he said. Blinken, speaking at an appearance in Washington with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg that the current U.S. assessment is that there will still be "many months" of conflict. "That could be over tomorrow if Russia chose to end the aggression. We don't see any signs of that right now," he said.