Zelenskiy Says Russia Wants To Capture Zaporizhzhya Even As Fighting In Donbas Rages

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy says a "threatening situation" has developed in Zaporizhzhya, where Russian troops intend to capture the region's main city even while they fight for control of the eastern city of Syevyerodonetsk.

"The enemy wants to...occupy the city of Zaporizhzhya," Zelenskiy told a news conference on June 6.

The General Staff of the Ukrainian armed forces also said that Russian troops are strengthening in the direction of Zaporizhzhya. Capture of the southeastern city would allow the Russian military to advance closer to the center of the country.

The Zaporizhzhya region, parts of which have already been taken by Russia, is one of the biggest industrial regions of Ukraine's southeast.

Zelenskiy, who on June 5 visited Lysychansk and Soledar, two cities close to some of the most intense fighting, also spoke about fighting in the Donbas. He said that in the Luhansk region the Ukrainian resistance continues in Syevyerodonetsk, one of the two key cities in the region still not in Russian hands.

"There are more of them, they are more powerful, but we have every chance to fight on this direction," Zelenskiy said.

In the northeastern Kharkiv region, the Ukrainian Army "step by step de-occupies our lands" from Russian invaders, Zelenskiy said.

He also said the country was hoping to create secure corridors that would allow its ships to export grain from Black Sea ports blocked by the fighting. Ukraine is in talks with Turkey and Britain about security guaranties for Ukrainian ships carrying grain, he said.

"It is important for us that there is a security corridor...that the fleet of this or that country ensures the shipping of the grain," Zelenskiy said.

Grain exports were a topic of discussion at the UN Security Council in New York, where European Council President Charles Michel blamed the Kremlin for a looming global food crisis.

Michel addressed Russian Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya directly at a council meeting on June 6, saying he saw millions of tons of grain and wheat stuck in containers and ships at the Ukrainian port of Odesa a few weeks ago “because of Russian warships in the Black Sea.”

His comments prompted Nebenzya to walk out.

Thousands have been caught in the crossfire in Syevyerodonetsk as Governor Serhiy Hayday says Russian forces have turned to "scorched-earth tactics.”

Hayday said Russian shelling on June 6 was also targeting Syevyerodonetsk's twin city of Lysychansk. He said Russia had devoted a "simply incredible" number of troops and equipment to bombarding the main access road to Lysychansk and Syevyerodonetsk, which runs between Bakhmut and Lysychansk.

Separately, the chief of Ukraine's military intelligence said fighting around Syevyerodonetsk now represented the "hottest" area of conflict in Ukraine.

General Kyrylo Budanov said Ukrainian forces were making progress against the Russians in the important eastern railway hub despite "a tenfold advantage of the enemy in artillery."

It was not possible to independently verify the claim.

Oleksandr Stryuk, mayor of Syevyerodonetsk, said the situation was "changing from hour to hour" and it was unclear which side had the upper hand.

Russian troops also are targeting Slovyansk, in the Donetsk region of eastern Ukraine, and have resumed their offensive near Svyatyhorsk, some 20 kilometers north of Slovyansk, suffering losses, the General Staff of Ukraine's armed forces said.

Thousands of people have fled Slovyansk, a city with a prewar population of around 100,000, but some 30,000 are still inside.

British intelligence suggested on June 6 that the Russian troops' push toward Slovyansk is part of their attempted encirclement of Ukrainian forces.

In a move coordinated with the United States, Britain said it would supply Ukraine with multiple-launch rocket systems that can strike targets up to 80 kilometers away, providing the more precise, long-range firepower needed to strike Russian artillery batteries.

Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the M270 multiple-launch rocket system will help Ukraine defend itself against Russia. No number was cited, but according to sources quoted by the BBC there will initially be three systems.

The United States announced last week it was also supplying a HIMARS rocket system that can fire rockets precisely to a distance of up to 80 kilometers.

U.S. President Joe Biden said he would provide the HIMARS system to Ukraine after being assured it would not be used to strike targets inside Russia.

The Ukrainians had requested the longer-range systems that can hit targets up to 300 kilometers away in order to be able to strike in the rear of Russian forces, but Washington was reluctant to provide them.

The British M270 multiple launch rocket system can fire 12 surface-to-surface missiles within a minute and can strike targets within 80 kilometers with pinpoint accuracy. However, the technical description of the M270 says that, depending on munitions used, it can reach targets as far away as 300 kilometers.

Russian President Vladimir Putin warned on June 5 that Moscow would strike new targets if Washington supplied long-range missiles to Ukraine.

Putin told Rossia-1 TV channel that if U.S. multiple-launch rocket systems (MLRS) were supplied to Ukraine, "we will draw appropriate conclusions from this and use our own weapons, of which we have enough, in order to strike at those facilities we are not targeting yet."

Delivering new arms to Kyiv would only "drag out the armed conflict for as long as possible," Putin said.

Explosions rocked the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on June 5, Ukrainian officials said.

Britain's Defense Ministry said in its daily intelligence bulletin on June 6 that the Russian Kh-101 air-launched cruise missiles had struck rail infrastructure in Kyiv, and were "likely in an attempt disrupt the supply of Western military equipment to frontline Ukrainian units."

Ukraine's military said late on June 5 that a senior Kremlin-backed separatist commander had been killed in battle.

The news was first broken by Russian state media journalist Aleksandr Sladkov on June 5, who did not say precisely when and where Major General Roman Kutuzov was killed.

The Strategic Communications Administration of Ukrainian military said late on June 5 that Kutuzov had been "officially denazified and demilitarized" -- a mocking reference to Putin's declared goal of "de-Nazifying and demilitarizing" Ukraine -- while leading an attack on a village near the town of Popasna in the Luhansk region.

Several Russian generals have been killed since the February 24 start of the invasion, though Moscow has only officially confirmed the death of four. Ukraine at one point claimed that as many as seven had been killed in the conflict, only for two of them to later turn up alive.

With reporting by Reuters, BBC, CNN, AFP, and AP