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Latest Developments in Ukraine: June 15

A damaged tram is pictured at a shelled tram depot, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, June 15, 2022.
A damaged tram is pictured at a shelled tram depot, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kharkiv, Ukraine, June 15, 2022.

For full coverage of the crisis in Ukraine, visit Flashpoint Ukraine.

The latest developments in the conflict between Russia and Ukraine. All times EDT:

10:30 p.m.: Agence France-Press reports that the conflict in Ukraine has pushed global displacement numbers above 100 million for the first time. And the looming hunger crisis could send those numbers even higher.

7:23 p.m.: Two U.S. veterans from Alabama who were in Ukraine assisting in the war against Russia haven't been heard from in days and are missing, members of the state's congressional delegation said, according to an Associated Press report.

Relatives of Andy Tai Ngoc Huynh, 27, of Trinity and Alexander Drueke, 39, of Tuscaloosa have been in contact with both Senate and House offices seeking information about the men's whereabouts, press aides said, according to AP

Rep. Robert Aderholt said Huynh had volunteered to go fight with the Ukrainian army against Russia, but relatives haven't heard from him since June 8, when he was in the Kharkiv region of northeastern Ukraine, which is near the Russian border. Huynh and Drueke were together, an aide to Aderholt said.

A White House national security spokesperson said if the reports are true, the United States "will do everything we can" to get them back, Reuters reported.

6:18 p.m.: Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and what Europe must do to counter the consequences of that have become the key task for the Czech Republic’s upcoming presidency of the 27-nation European Union, The Associated Press reported.

“Europe and the whole world have been undergoing a crucial change,” Prime Minister Petr Fiala said Wednesday as he introduced his country’s priorities. “The Russian invasion have shaken many (of) our certainties.”

The country has pledged to use the rotating presidency of the Council, which sets and moderates the EU’s political agenda, to help Ukraine in all possible ways. The Czechs are among Eastern European countries that warmly support speeding up Ukraine’s EU membership bid.

5:15 p.m.: Russia can "provide safe passage" for Ukraine grain shipments from the country's Black Sea ports, but is not responsible for establishing the corridors, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told reporters on Wednesday, according to Reuters. "We are not responsible for establishing safe corridors. We said we could provide safe passage if these corridors are established. Establish them. It's obvious it's either demine the territory, which was mined by the Ukrainians, or to ensure that the passage goes around those mines," Nebenzia said.

4 p.m.:

3:20 p.m.: For the Ukrainian soldiers fighting to retake ground in the wheat fields and empty villages northwest of the city of Kherson, the liberation of one of Ukraine's most strategically important Black Sea cities feels tantalizingly close, Reuters reported. But military analysts said that a serious attempt to take the final 30-or-so kilometers of Black Sea steppe as part of a major counteroffensive will be difficult without a huge injection of arms and personnel.

2:54 p.m.: Is Ukraine losing the war? It's not that simple, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

"If by 'losing' you mean Ukraine doesn't look like it can regain its territory, and drive Russia out of its own territory, then yes, that's a fair assessment; they are losing," said Scott Boston, a former U.S. Army colonel and artillery officer who has studied the Ukraine war closely.

Other experts also say it depends on how you define "lose."

"It may look pessimistic, but in reality, if you look at the map, you look at the Donbas, you can't find a lot of changes, in spite of the huge concentration of Russian forces," said Mykhaylo Samus, the deputy director of the Center for Army, Conversion, and Disarmament Studies in Kyiv. "Ukrainian forces are playing very effective defense."

2:31 p.m.: The United States imposed sanctions on Wednesday on two men linked to a Russian "ethnically motivated violent extremist group," one of whom visited the United States to connect with far-right groups while the other funded pro-Russian fighters in the Donbas, Reuters reported.

2:05 p.m.: A decisive Ukrainian military victory over invading Russian forces would likely reverberate throughout the region, potentially ushering in a "positive future," Anne Applebaum, the U.S. Pulitzer-Prize winning author, has predicted. "A positive future for the region depends on Russia being defeated, and on Russians realizing they've been defeated," Applebaum said in a recent interview with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's Belarus Service.

1:51 p.m.: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg participated in a meeting of the US-led Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Brussels on Wednesday, thanking the U.S. for its leadership and coordination, according to a statement released by NATO.

“The Secretary General stressed that NATO Allies are committed to continue providing Ukraine with the military equipment it needs to prevail, including heavy weapons and long-range systems,” the statement said.

“Allies will agree a new comprehensive assistance package for Ukraine at the (upcoming NATO) Madrid Summit,” the statement noted. “This will help Ukraine in the longer-term to transition from Soviet-era to modern NATO equipment and to enhance interoperability with NATO.”

1:42 p.m.: Russia said on Wednesday that the West had "shot itself in the head" by trying to limit energy imports from the oil and gas fields of Siberia due to the Ukraine conflict, in sharp contrast to China which has increased deliveries of energy, Reuters reported.

The war in Ukraine - and the West's attempt to isolate Russia as punishment for the invasion - have sent the price of grain, cooking oil, fertiliser and energy soaring while Europe has vowed to reduce its dependence on Russian oil and gas.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Russia's strategic partnership with China had withstood attempts by the West to sow discord while the United States and its European allies had destroyed their relationship with Moscow. "Energy supplies are steadily increasing: China knows what it wants and doesn't shoot itself in the foot. While to the west of Moscow, they shoot themselves in the head," Zakharova told reporters.

1:35 p.m.:

1:25 p.m.: Phil and Kristie Graves are a U.S. couple from Maryland and parents of three biological children and an adopted girl with special needs from Armenia. Recently, they decided to adopt a six-year-old girl with special needs from Ukraine. But that was before the Russian invasion. VOA’s Anush Avetisyan has the story.

Ukrainian Orphan Finds New Home and Hope in America
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1:09 p.m.: Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said it may be possible to create secure corridors to transport Ukrainian grain through the Black Sea without the need to clear sea mines near Ukrainian ports, The Associated Press reported.

Cavusoglu’s comments Wednesday came a week after he discussed with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov a U.N. plan to open up Odesa and Ukraine’s other Black Sea ports to allow millions of tons of grains to be shipped to world markets. Russia has demanded that Ukraine remove mines from the Black Sea before grain exports can resume by ship. Ukraine rejects the proposal, insisting it would leave its ports vulnerable to attacks.

Cavusoglu told reporters that since the location of the mines are known, it would be possible to establish “secure corridors” that avoid them. Turkey’s Defense Ministry said Turkey, Russia and Ukraine have appointed high-ranking military officers and set up a telephone hotline to try and overcome hurdles over crop exports.

12:55 p.m.:

12:47 p.m.: A U.S. State Department spokesperson on Wednesday briefed reporters on background about two U.S. citizens who may have been captured in Ukraine, VOA’s State Department Bureau Chief Nike Ching reported.

“We are aware of unconfirmed reports of two U.S. citizens captured in Ukraine. We are closely monitoring the situation and are in contact with Ukrainian authorities. Due to privacy considerations, we have no further comment,” the spokesperson said.

“We also once again reiterate U.S. citizens should not travel to Ukraine due to the active armed conflict and the singling out of U.S. citizens in Ukraine by Russian government security officials, and that U.S. citizens in Ukraine should depart immediately if it is safe to do so using any commercial or other privately available ground transportation options,” the spokesperson added.

12:30 p.m.: The U.S. announced Wednesday that it is sending another $1 billion in military aid to Ukraine, as well as an additional $225 million in humanitarian assistance, the White House said in a statement. U.S. President Joe Biden told Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in a telephone call Wednesday morning that the U.S. reaffirmed its commitment to help Ukraine defend its democracy from “Russia’s brutal and ongoing war.”

"I informed President Zelenskyy that the United States is providing another $1 billion in security assistance for Ukraine, including additional artillery and coastal defense weapons, as well as ammunition for the artillery and advanced rocket systems that the Ukrainians need to support their defensive operations in the Donbas,” Biden said.

“Today, I am also announcing an additional $225 million in humanitarian assistance to help people inside Ukraine, including by supplying safe drinking water, critical medical supplies and health care, food, shelter, and cash for families to purchase essential items,” the president added.

The aid comes as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin convened a meeting in Brussels of more than 45 nations to discuss support for Ukraine, The Associated Press reported. At the start of the meeting, Austin warned that the West must step up weapons deliveries to Ukraine and prove its commitment to helping the country’s military fight along a 1,000-kilometer (620-mile) front line in a grinding war of attrition with Russia. And he urged the participating nations to demonstrate “our unwavering determination to get Ukraine the capabilities that it urgently needs to defend itself.”

11:52 a.m.:

11:39 a.m.: Chinese President Xi Jinping reasserted his country’s support for Russia on issues of sovereignty and security in a phone call with Russian leader Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, The Associated Press reported, quoting state media. Xi told Putin that “all parties should responsibly push for a proper settlement of the Ukraine crisis,” according to the official Xinhua News Agency.

The Kremlin said in its account of the call that Putin “outlined his fundamental assessments of the situation in Ukraine.” Xi “noted the legitimacy of the actions taken by Russia to protect the fundamental national interests in the face of challenges to its security created by external forces,” according to Moscow’s official readout.

China has refused to criticize Russia’s invasion of Ukraine or even to refer to it in such terms, while accusing NATO and the West of provoking Moscow into attacking.

11:16 a.m.:

11:02 a.m.: Russia’s Gazprom announced a reduction in natural gas flows through a key European pipeline for the second day in a row Wednesday, creating further energy turmoil for a continent as it tries to reduce its extensive use of Russian oil and natural gas amid the war in Ukraine, The Associated Press reported.

The state-owned energy giant said on Twitter that deliveries through the Nord Stream 1 pipeline to Germany would be cut again Thursday, bringing the overall reduction through the undersea pipeline to 60%.

The drop in shipments of gas used to power industry and generate electricity would amount to some 16 billion cubic meters by the end of the year, or around 10% of total European Union gas imports from Russia, according to Simone Tagliapietra, an energy policy expert at the Bruegel think tank in Brussels.

10:57 a.m.:

10:44 a.m.: Britain will soon deliver multiple-launch rocket systems to Ukraine in response to its request for heavy arms to repel the Russian invasion, UK Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said Wednesday, according to Agence France-Presse.

Following in the footsteps of the United States, London had announced on June 6 that it would send Ukraine its Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System, which has better range and precision than Russia's artillery.

"I think it's imminent, their delivery, and the munition has to go alongside," Wallace told reporters in Oslo on the sidelines of a meeting of the Joint Expeditionary Force grouping 10 Northern European countries.

10:31 a.m.: Ukraine ignored a Russian ultimatum to surrender the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk on Wednesday as NATO defense ministers gathered in Brussels to discuss sending more heavy weapons to replenish Kyiv's dwindling stocks, Reuters reported. The mayor of Sievierodonetsk, Oleksandr Stryuk, said after the early morning deadline passed that Russian forces were trying to storm the city from several directions but Ukrainian forces continued to defend it and were not completely cut off.

10:19 a.m.: Ukrainian soccer will return to the Champions League next month when Dynamo Kyiv plays Turkish team Fenerbahçe in the second qualifying round — the club’s first competitive game since the Russian invasion started, The Associated Press reported.

Dynamo was among four teams in Wednesday’s draw for runners-up from mid-ranking leagues. Dynamo was in second place in the Ukrainian league when it paused in February after Russia invaded. The league never resumed. No league title was awarded to leader Shakhtar Donetsk but the standings were used to decide Ukraine’s entries for the next UEFA club competitions.

10:08 a.m.:

9:52 a.m.: A key lawmaker is criticizing the White House for being too cautious in its backing of Ukraine, saying the U.S. needs to start supplying Kyiv with more advanced long-range systems, VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin reported.

"I don't agree with the president's take that we can't give the Ukrainians anything capable of striking Russia,” House Armed Services Committee chairman, Democrat Adam Smith, told reports with the Defense Writers Group Wednesday.

"We need to be more aggressive," he said. "We need to be giving more sophisticated systems, particularly when it comes to drones and long-range artillery."

Smith described the push to get the White House to agree to sending weapons, like armed MQ-1C Gray Eagle drones, as bipartisan and said he has been urging President Joe Biden to authorize the delivery of such systems “near constantly.”

9:38 a.m.:

9:29 a.m.: A U.N. delegation investigating war crimes in Ukraine has visited areas of the country which were held by Russian troops and says there is evidence which could support war crimes allegations, The Associated Press reported.

The delegation chaired by Erik Møse, a Norwegian judge, visited sites including the Kyiv suburbs of Bucha and Irpin, where Ukrainian authorities have accused Russia of mass killings of civilians. “At this stage we are not in a position to make any factual findings or pronounce ourselves on issues of the legal determination of events,” Møse said.

“However, subject to further confirmation, the information received and the visited sites of destruction may support claims that serious violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law, perhaps reaching war crimes and crimes against humanity, have been committed in the areas,” he said.

With Ukrainian and international organizations investigating war crimes cases, Møse expressed concern at the risk of investigations “overlapping” or causing witnesses more trauma by going over the same events repeatedly.

9:16 a.m.:

9:02 a.m.: The Russian military said Wednesday that it used long-range missiles to destroy a depot in the western Lviv region of Ukraine where ammunition for NATO-supplied weapons was being stored, The Associated Press reported.

Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said that Russian forces used high-precision Kalibr missiles to destroy the depot near the town of Zolochiv, which is in the Lviv oblast near the border with NATO member Poland.

Konashenkov said M777 howitzers, a type supplied by the United States, were being stored there. He said that Russian airstrikes also destroyed Ukrainian “aviation equipment” at a military aerodrome in the southern Mykolaiv region, he said.

The strikes came as Ukraine keeps up its pressure on Western country to deliver more arms, and as NATO countries pledge more heavy weapons for Ukraine.

8:53 a.m.:

8:34 a.m.: Russia-backed separatists accused Ukrainian forces of sabotaging an evacuation of civilians from the besieged Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk, where about 500 civilians and an unknown number of Ukrainian fighters are believed to be sheltering. It wasn’t possible to verify that claim, The Associated Press reported.

A humanitarian corridor from the Azot plant had been announced a day earlier by Russia. The Ukrainian governor of Luhansk Serhiy Haidai on Wednesday refused to comment on Russian statements regarding a humanitarian corridor, but told The Associated Press that “heavy fighting in Sievierodonetsk continues today as well.”

The situation in the city is getting worse, Haidai admitted, because the Russian forces have more manpower and weapons. “But our military are holding back the enemy from three sides at once,” Haidai said. “The enemy is advancing because of significant advantage in artillery and people, but the Ukrainian army is holding on to its positions in the city.”

8:28 a.m.: President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on the European Union to ratchet up its sanctions regime on Russia, calling for a seventh EU package of punitive measures against Moscow for its unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. In a video-link address to both chambers of the Czech parliament on Wednesday, Zelenskyy thanked the Czech Republic for the assistance provided to Ukraine so far but urged the West not to stop the support for Ukraine.

8:16 a.m.: Egypt, Israel and the European Union on Wednesday signed a deal to increase liquified natural gas sales to EU countries, who aim to reduce their dependence on supplies from Russia as the war in Ukraine drags on, The Associated Press reported.

The deal, stamped in an upscale Cairo hotel, will see Israel send more gas via Egypt, which has facilities to liquify it for export by sea, European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said. “What a special moment,” she said in a joint news conference alongside the Egyptian and Israel energy ministers. “I very warmly welcome the signing of this historic agreement.”

Von der Leyen, who visited Israel earlier this week, said the agreement was part of Europe’s efforts to diversify energy sources away from Russia and import hydrocarbons from “other trustworthy suppliers.” She named Israel and Egypt who have emerged as gas exporters in recent years following major offshore discoveries.

7:43 a.m.: European countries, scrambling to secure alternatives to Russian coal, imported 40% more coal from South Africa's main export hub in the first five months of this year than over the whole of 2021, figures obtained by Reuters showed on Wednesday.

7:36 a.m.: The head of the U.N. World Food Program, David Beasley, on Wednesday shared a video clip on Twitter from his interview with Swedish national public television broadcaster SVT, in which he appealed to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin to open Ukraine’s ports to allow food supplies to reach the rest of the world. “So I’m asking President Putin, if you have any heart at can prevent famine by opening up those ports,” Beasley said. “Let those ports open, let us move our ships in and out, so we can reach the hundreds of millions of people around the world that depend upon grain from Ukraine and Russia,” he added.

7:29 a.m.: Europe has grappled with how to end its Russian energy addiction more than ever since Vladimir Putin launched his country's unprovoked invasion of Ukraine on February 24. But absent from sanctions, let alone discussion, is Rosatom, the Russian state-run nuclear power giant, despite a written appeal in the early days of the invasion from Ukrainian activists and NGOs to blacklist the company and ban nuclear fuel imported from Russia. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty has this story.

7:14 a.m.: The Kremlin said on Wednesday that communication remains "essential" in relations with the United States, amid tensions over Russia's continuing war in Ukraine, Reuters reported.

"Communication is essential, in the future we will still have to communicate," Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov told reporters in a conference call on Wednesday, when asked about the state of U.S.-Russia relations.

"The U.S. is not going anywhere, Europe is not going anywhere, so somehow we will have to communicate with them."

6:43 a.m.: They have helped millions flee to safety, brought foreign leaders to Kyiv and transported countless metric tons of goods: for Ukraine, trains have played a crucial role in countering the Russian offensive, its railway chief said.

"Some say the railways have been like a second army," Oleksandr Kamyshin, head of Ukraine Railways, told Agence France-Presse in an interview. "When the war started, we had to react quickly so that's exactly what we did."

From the moment Russia attacked on February 24, the railways were essential for getting people to safety, Kamyshin said. "Since the start of the war, 3.8 million people were evacuated from the east and the south of Ukraine toward the west, and 600,000 people in the west toward neighboring countries," like Poland, Romania and Moldavia, he said.

6:38 a.m.: The U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Wednesday shared the story of one beneficiary of its programs in Ukraine.

6:30 a.m.: The head of Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo, an international banking group, said the bank was continuing to work to reduce its Russian exposure and looking to select counterparties to this end, Reuters reported.

Speaking during a financial conference in Milan on Wednesday, CEO Carlo Messina said that sanctions imposed after Russia's invasion of Ukraine were making the process difficult.

Intesa last month cut its profit guidance for the year after setting aside 800 million euros ($847 million) to cover potential losses from its exposure to Russia.

6:24 a.m.: President Joe Biden on Wednesday called on U.S. oil refiners to produce more gasoline and diesel, saying their profits have tripled during a time of war between Russia and Ukraine. “The crunch that families are facing deserves immediate action,” Biden wrote in the draft of a letter to oil refiners obtained by The Associated Press. “Your companies need to work with my Administration to bring forward concrete, near-term solutions that address the crisis.”

6:15 a.m.: NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters NATO defense ministers would meet late Wednesday with Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov and get an update on “what Ukraine urgently needs.”

Amid comments by Ukrainian officials that not enough military aid has come, and not quickly enough, Stoltenberg said such efforts take time but that NATO leaders realize the urgency and are working with Ukraine to overcome hurdles.

Stoltenberg also said he expects NATO allies will also make new announcements of support for Ukraine on Wednesday.

5:10 a.m.: Reuters reported that some 2.4 million hectares of winter crops with a total value of $1.435 billion will remain unharvested in Ukraine because of Russia’s invasion, the Ukrainian agriculture ministry said on Wednesday.

It said the agriculture sector had so far suffered losses of $4.292 billion because of the invasion. It estimated that the number of animals killed in areas affected by fighting included 42,000 sheep and goats, 92,000 cows, 258,000 pigs and more than 5.7 million birds.

4:30 a.m.: Up to 1,200 civilians may be holed up in the shelters of the Azot chemical plant in the eastern Ukrainian city where one of the fiercest battles of the war has been raging between Russian and Ukrainian forces, Reuters reported citing a Russian-backed separatist.

Russian forces are trying to grind down Ukrainian resistance in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, part of a wider push to drive Kyiv’s forces out of two separatist regions which Russia backs and has recognized as independent states.

Russia on Wednesday said it had opened a humanitarian corridor out of the sprawling ammonia factory founded under Soviet leader Josef Stalin, to a separatist-controlled town.

“About 1,000 to 1,200 civilians of Sievierodonetsk may still be on the territory of the Azot chemical plant,” Rodion Miroshnik, an official in the Russian-backed self-styled separatist administration of the Luhansk People’s Republic, said on Telegram.

Miroshnik said the civilians are in part of the plant that is still controlled by Ukrainian forces, which he said numbered up to 2,000 people including Ukrainian and foreign fighters.

4:10 a.m.: Higher oil prices and dimming economic forecasts are set to weigh on demand growth, the International Energy Agency said on Wednesday, though the world’s thirst for oil is set to reach pre-pandemic levels in 2023, Reuters reported.

“Economic fears persist, as various international institutions have recently released downbeat outlooks,” the Paris-based IEA said in its monthly oil report, providing its first demand prediction for next year.

“Similarly, tightening central bank policy, the impact of a soaring U.S. dollar and rising interest rates on the purchasing power of emerging economies mean the risks to our outlook are concentrated on the downside.”

Rising crude and fuel prices buoyed in part by sanctions on Russian supply in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine have helped push up inflation in some developed economies to 40-year highs, sparking fears of a possible recession.

While advanced economies making up the OECD will account for most demand growth this year, China is due to lead the gains in 2023 as it emerges from lockdowns aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19.

3:59 a.m.: President Emmanuel Macron voiced a tougher line on Russia on Wednesday after visiting French and allied troops at a NATO base in Romania, seeking to assuage concerns in Ukraine and among some European allies over his previous stance towards Moscow, Reuters reported.

Macron arrived in Romania on Tuesday for a three-day trip to NATO’s southern flank including Moldova before possibly heading to Kyiv on Thursday on a visit with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi, two diplomatic sources said. The French leader has been criticized by Ukraine and eastern European allies for what they perceived as his ambiguous backing for Ukraine in the war against Russia.

French officials have in recent days sought to strengthen the public messaging, while Macron appeared to take a tougher line on Tuesday evening when he was with his troops.

“We will do everything to stop Russia’s war forces, to help the Ukrainians and their army and continue to negotiate,” he told French and NATO troops at a military base in Romania. “But for the foreseeable future, we will need to protect, dissuade and be present,” he said.

2:10 a.m.:

1:30 a.m.: Film icon and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger says “we have blood on our hands” condemning countries buying Russian fuel in this video shared by Agence France-Presse.

1:15 a.m.: Elements of Ukraine’s Armed Forces and several hundred civilians are sheltering in underground bunkers in Azot Chemical Plant in the embattled city of Sievierodonetsk, Britain’s defense ministry said on Wednesday.

Russian forces now control the majority of the Ukrainian city, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said in a Twitter update.

Russia told Ukrainian forces who were holed up in the chemical plant to lay down their arms by early Wednesday, pressing its advantage in the battle for control of eastern Ukraine.

12:20 a.m.: U.S. Defense Minister Lloyd Austin is leading a meeting of dozens of his counterparts from NATO member states and other parts of the world Wednesday to discuss their latest efforts to boost military aid to Ukraine in the face of the nearly four-month Russian invasion.

The talks are taking place on the sidelines of a NATO defense ministers meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels. A virtual meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group last month drew representatives from nearly 50 nations and pledges of new aid packages. Ukrainian officials continue to urge international partners to send more weapons, especially heavy artillery, in order to help Ukrainian forces, match up against Russia.

“The question is what do the Ukrainians need to continue the success they’ve already seen in slowing down and thwarting that Russian objective and that’ll be a major focus for the defense ministers,” a senior U.S. defense official said ahead of Wednesday’s meeting.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Tuesday that Ukraine “should have more heavy weapons.” He said Ukraine’s forces “absolutely depend on that to be able to stand up against the brutal Russian invasion.”

12:01 a.m.: Russian forces push to gain full control of the eastern industrial city of Sievierodonetsk, located in the Donbas region that Russia has declared to be its main focus of its operation in Ukraine.

“Hanging in there in Donbas is crucial,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said in a video message late Tuesday. “Donbas is the key to deciding who will dominate in the coming weeks.”

Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.