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Zelenskyy: Russian Port Blockade May Mean Millions Starve  


FILE - Harbor cranes are seen at the trade port in Mariupol, Ukraine, Feb. 23, 2022.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy accused Russia of continuing to “blackmail the world with famine” by blockading Ukrainian ports and preventing exports of wheat, corn, vegetable oil and other food products.

In a videotaped message to the Time magazine gala released Thursday, Zelenskyy said Russia’s actions have left the world “on the brink of a terrible food crisis.”

"Millions of people may starve if the Russian blockade of the Black Sea continues," Zelenskyy said.


Russia has blamed the drop in exports on international sanctions and what it says are Ukrainian mines in the Black Sea.

Fierce fighting continued Thursday in the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, with Ukrainian officials saying they need long-range artillery in order to beat back Russian forces that have taken over large areas.

This satellite image released by Maxar Technologies on June 7, 2022 shows damaged buildings from artillery shelling, downtown Sievierodonetsk near Chemist's Palace of Culture, June 6, 2022. (Photo by Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies / AFP)
This satellite image released by Maxar Technologies on June 7, 2022 shows damaged buildings from artillery shelling, downtown Sievierodonetsk near Chemist's Palace of Culture, June 6, 2022. (Photo by Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies / AFP)

Zelenskyy said in a separate address late Wednesday that the battle for Sievierodonetsk is “one of the most difficult” of the war, while highlighting its importance in the key Donbas region.

"In many ways, the fate of our Donbas is being decided there,” Zelenskyy said.

Ukrainian forces were forced to retreat to the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk on Wednesday in the face of a fierce Russian attack.

Days ago, Ukrainian forces launched a counteroffensive that gave them control of about half the city, but Luhansk regional Governor Serhiy Haidai told the RBC-Ukraine media outlet that when Russia started flattening the city with shelling and air strikes, it made no sense to stay.

"Our [forces] now again control only the outskirts of the city,” Haidai said. “But the fighting is still going on; our [forces] are defending Sievierodonetsk. It is impossible to say the Russians completely control the city."

He acknowledged the difficulties for Kyiv’s forces, telling The Associated Press, "Everything the Russian army has — artillery, mortars, tanks, aviation — all of that, they're using in Sievierodonetsk in order to wipe the city off the face of the Earth and capture it completely."

Haidai indicated that Ukrainian forces could pull back to more defensible positions, such as Lysychansk, a city across the Siverskyi Donets River, which sits on higher ground. He has previously suggested that Kyiv’s forces would have to pull back to avoid being surrounded.

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

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