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G-7 Heightening Russia Sanctions for Ukraine War

The United States announced Monday new sanctions it and other G-7 countries are enacting against Russia in response to its war in Ukraine, including measures to cut off Russia from materials and services needed by Russia’s industrial and technology sectors. 

The White House said the United States will commit $7.5 billion as part of a G-7 effort to help Ukraine cover its short-term budget needs, and that the governments are making “an unprecedented, long-term security commitment to providing Ukraine with financial, humanitarian, military and diplomatic support as long as it takes.” 

The announcement came as G-7 leaders met in Germany where they awaited an address by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. 

Additional specific U.S. sanctions include blocks on Russian state-owned defense enterprises and defense research organizations, limiting Russia’s ability to replenish equipment it has lost in the war, and prohibitions on gold imports into the United States. 

Russian troops carried out shelling in the eastern city of Lysychansk on Monday, working to try to capture the last remaining Ukrainian stronghold in Luhansk province after seizing control of neighboring Sievierodonetsk. 

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai said the damage to Lysychansk has be “catastrophic.” 

Haidai urged the remaining civilians to evacuate the city that was home to 100,000 people before Russia launched its invasion in late February. 

Russia now controls virtually all of Luhansk province, part of the eastern Donbas region that Moscow is trying to take over, one of its major war aims. 

Russian forces on Sunday launched new missile attacks against Ukraine’s two biggest cities, the capital of Kyiv and Kharkiv. 

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said at least two apartment buildings in the city were hit, leaving at least one person dead, and four others injured. 

Russia ramped up its use of cruise missiles, striking targets across northwestern Ukraine. Air raid sirens blared in several cities. 

“It’s more of their barbarism,” U.S. President Joe Biden said of the Russian strike on Kyiv. 

Default 

Russia moved closer Sunday to defaulting on international debt payments for the first time in a century. 

Interest payments totaling $100 million on two bonds were originally due May 27, but carried a 30-day grace period. 

Russia has struggled to make such payments due to restrictions on its financial activities related to sanctions imposed in response to its invasion of Ukraine that began in late February. 

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters.

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Ukraine War Could Boost Illegal Drug Production, says UN

The war in Ukraine could allow illegal drug production to flourish, while the opium market’s future hinges on the fate of crisis-wracked Afghanistan, the United Nations warned Monday. 

Previous experience from the Middle East and Southeast Asia suggests conflict zones can act as a “magnet” for making synthetic drugs, which can be manufactured anywhere, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) said in its annual report. “This effect may be greater when the conflict area is near large consumer markets.” 

The UNODC said the number of dismantled amphetamine laboratories in Ukraine rose from 17 in 2019 to 79 in 2020, the highest number of seized laboratories reported in any country in 2020. 

Ukraine’s capacity to produce synthetic drugs could grow as the war continues, it added. 

“You don’t have police going around and stopping laboratories” in conflict zones, UNODC expert Angela Me told AFP. 

The report also noted that conflict could shift and disrupt drug trafficking routes, with suggestions that trafficking in Ukraine has fallen since early 2022. 

The situation in Afghanistan — which produced 86% of the world’s opium in 2021 — will shape the development of the opiate market, the U.N. report added. 

It said the country’s humanitarian crisis could incentivize illegal opium poppy cultivation, even after the Taliban authorities banned the practice in April. 

“Changes in opium production in Afghanistan will have implications for opiate markets in virtually all regions of the world,” the U.N. said. 

An estimated 284 million people used a drug in 2021, or one in every 18 people worldwide aged between 15 and 64, the report found. 

The figure was 26% higher than in 2010, with population growth only partially accounting for the change. 

Cocaine production climbed to a new record in 2020 at 1,982 tons. 

Although most drug consumers were men, Me said women heavily used amphetamine type stimulants and were under-represented in treatment. 

“For them, it’s a double stigma. Going there is also to expose themselves,” she told AFP. “We have put a recommendation on safety and how to ensure that the centers have the possibility to welcome children.” 

The UNODC report was based on information gathered from member states, its own sources, and analyzing institutional reports, the media and open-source material.

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Erdogan to Meet With Leaders of Sweden, Finland Before NATO Summit in 4-Way Talks

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will attend a round of talks with the leaders of Sweden and Finland, as well as NATO on Tuesday ahead of the summit in Madrid, Turkish presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said Sunday.

Finland and Sweden applied for NATO membership in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. But the bids have faced opposition from Turkey, which has been angered by what it says is Helsinki and Stockholm’s support for Kurdish militants and arms embargoes on Ankara.

Speaking to broadcaster Haberturk, Kalin said he and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal would also attend a round of talks with Swedish and Finnish delegations in Brussels on Monday.

“There will be a four-way summit in Madrid at the leader level in Madrid upon the request of the NATO secretary-general with the attendance of our president,” he said.

Kalin said Erdogan attending the talks with Sweden, Finland and NATO on Tuesday “does not mean we will take a step back from our position.”

“We have brought negotiations to a certain point. It is not possible for us to take a step back here,” he also said of the upcoming talks.

Kalin said Turkey and the Nordic countries had largely agreed on issues and would be in a better position in Madrid— if they could agree on them during talks Monday.

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G-7 Summit to Address Global Threats

U.S. President Joe Biden comes to the Group of Seven summit with the war in Ukraine showing no signs of stopping and China’s ambition spreading. The White House says they are committed to countering these issues. VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell reports from Telfs, Austria.

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‘Elvis,’ ‘Top Gun’ Tie for Box-Office Crown With $30.5 Million Each

Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis Presley biopic “Elvis” shook up theaters with an estimated $30.5 million in weekend ticket sales, but — in a box-office rarity — “Elvis” tied “Top Gun: Maverick,” which also reported $30.5 million, for No. 1 in theaters.

Final figures Monday, once Sunday’s grosses are tabulated, will sort out which film ultimately won the weekend. With a high degree of accuracy, studios can forecast Sunday sales based on Friday and Saturday business, though numbers often shift by a few hundred thousand dollars.

But for now, the unlikely pair of “Elvis” and “Maverick” are locked in a dance off (if you favor “Elvis”) or a dead heat (if you prefer “Maverick”). That it was this close at all was due to both a better-than-expected opening for “Elvis” and remarkably strong continued sales for “Top Gun: Maverick.” The “Top Gun” sequel reached $1 billion in worldwide box office in its fifth week of release.

“Elvis,” starring newcomer Austin Butler as Presley, came into the weekend with expectations closer to $25 million. Among recent music biopics, a $30.5 million debut puts the King ahead of the pace of Elton John (“Rocketman” launched with $25.7 million in 2019) though not in the same class as Freddie Mercury (“Bohemian Rhapsody” opened with $51.1 million in 2018).

“I’m less concerned with who’s number one and who’s number two, and I’m more concerned that we hit this big number given that this audience has been the slowest to return to movie theaters,” said Jeff Goldstein, distribution chief for Warner Bros.

About 60% of the audience for “Elvis” was over the age of 35. Older audiences have been among the most hesitant to return to theaters in the pandemic but that’s changing — in part, Goldstein noted, because of “Top Gun,” which brought back fans of the 1986 original.

“Elvis,” which cost about $85 million to make, was propelled by strong reviews (78% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes), good word of mouth (an A- CinemaScore) and a glitzy Cannes Film Festival premiere. It added $20 million overseas over the weekend.

“Elvis” ranks as Luhrmann’s second best opening after 2013’s “The Great Gatsby” ($50.1 million). Luhrmann was on the cusp of beginning production in Australia when, in an indelible early moment in the pandemic, star Tom Hanks tested positive for COVID-19.

“‘Elvis’ was a risky proposition: the music is dated, the character is not directly familiar, and the lead actor is unproven on the big screen,” David A. Gross of Franchise Entertainment Research wrote in a newsletter. “But critics and audiences are responding. This is the Baz Luhrmann show, a music, dance and sex appeal spectacular — it’s a hit.”

Meanwhile, “Top Gun: Maverick” continues to soar. The Paramount Pictures film became the first 2022 release to reach $1 billion in worldwide ticket sales, and the first starring Tom Cruise to do so.

In its fifth weekend of release, “Maverick” dipped just 32% domestically to bring its total so far to $521.7 million in U.S. and Canadian theaters. It continues to move up the record books, sitting 15th all-time domestically, not accounting for inflation. Internationally, the “Top Gun” sequel added another $44.5 million.

The “Elvis”/”Top Gun” showdown — along with the new Blumhouse horror release “The Black Phone” and big holdovers in “Jurassic World: Dominion” and Pixar’s “Lightyear” — made for one of the most competitive, and busy, weekends in movie theaters in the pandemic era.

Most studios came away celebrating, though Disney’s “Lightyear” dropped a steep 65% in its second weekend. After opening softly last week, the “Toy Story” spinoff grossed $17.7 million domestically, falling to fifth place. “Lightyear,” which has made $152 million worldwide to date, will soon face more competition for families with the Friday release of “Minions: The Rise of Gru.”

Counterprogramming came from Universal Pictures’ “The Black Phone,” the Scott Derrickson-directed supernatural thriller starring Ethan Hawke as an escaped killer. The Blumhouse production rode strong reviews (84% fresh on Rotten Tomatoes) to a better-than-expected launch of $23.4 million.

After two weeks in first place, Universal’s “Jurassic World: Dominion” took in $26.4 million, sliding to third. It’s now passed $300 million domestically and hauled in $746.7 million globally.

A much smaller-scaled film, “Marcel the Shell With Shoes On,” debuted with good sales in limited release. The warmly received stop-motion animation film, in which Jenny Slate voices a one-inch-tall mollusk with a googly eye, opened with $169,606 on six screens, for a per-screen average of $28,267.

Estimated ticket sales for Friday through Sunday at U.S. and Canadian theaters, according to Comscore. Final domestic figures will be released Monday.

  1. (Tie) “Elvis,” $30.5 million.

  2. (Tie) “Top Gun: Maverick,” $30.5 million.

  3. “Jurassic World: Dominion,” $26.4 million.

  4. “Black Phone,” $23.4 million.

  5. “Lightyear,” $17.7 million.

  6. “Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness,” $1.7 million.

  7. “Jugjugg Jeeyo,” $725,000.

  8. “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” $533,000.

  9. “The Bob’s Burgers Movie,” $513,000.

  10. “The Bad Guys,” $440,000.

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Greece to Triple Length of Border Fence With Turkey

Greece is set to further seal its land frontiers with rival neighbor Turkey, tripling the length of a soaring fence built to block illegal migrants from sneaking in. The plan comes as Greece faces a sudden surge in refugees, both along its land and sea frontiers, as relations with its age-old foe deteriorate.

Greece began extending the security fence along its rugged border with Turkey last year, a decade after Athens initially built a 13-kilometer fence in the region to stem the tide of illegal migration.

But a sudden surge in refugee flows has authorities concerned now.

“There is a clear attempt by Turkey to instrumentalize migrants in creating a crisis with Greece,” said Migration Minister Notis Mitarachi. And the numbes, he added, speak for themselves.

While inflows dropped dramatically from the 1 million mainly Syrians who spilled into the country during the 2015 refugee crisis, an estimated 1,000 migrants make illegal crossings every day.

That’s about 20% higher than last year.

Hundreds of additional border guards have been deployed along the so-called Evros frontier in recent weeks to bolster patrols. But with fears of a bigger migratory push looming, Mitarachi said Greece is wasting no time in moving ahead with plans to add 80 additional kilometers of barbed wire and steel to the existing 40-kilometer fence.

How soon the project will begin remains unclear. But until it gets under way, Greece must deal with heightened migratory flows along its sea borders too… mainly in the massive Aegean waterway that divides Greece and Turkey.

Nikos Spanos, an admiral with the Greek Coast Guard, spelled out the threats posed by this latest surge.

“Let’s not kid ourselves,” he said. “Turkey regulates all migratory flows into Greece and Europe… and if the floodgates open farther, it will be very difficult for us to block these inflows from inundating many Greek islands.”

In June, Migration Ministry officials counted nearly three thousand migrants who tried to illegally cross into Greece from Turkey in a total of 82 attempts made. Only 72 asylum seekers managed to evade interception.

With relations between Greece and longtime foe Turkey sinking to their lowest point in years, authorities here are preparing for the worst: Massive inflows like those seen in 2015 in the biggest migratory push to Europe since World War II.

Although they are NATO members, Greece and Turkey have been competing over air and sea rights in the Aegean for decades. In recent weeks though, Turkey has threatened to challenge Greece’s sovereignty, claiming that more than 100 Aegean islands are its own, not Greece’s.

Ankara is also increasingly accusing Athens of building a military presence on some of them in breach of international treaties, allegations that Greece strongly denies.

Government sources told VOA Greece will raise what it calls Turkey’s provocative stance at a meeting of NATO leaders this week in Spain.

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Germany to Charge Most Citizens for COVID Rapid Tests

Germany will start charging for rapid COVID-19 tests that were previously free, though vulnerable groups will be exempt from the fee.

Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said that starting July 1 the rapid tests widely available at centers across Germany will cost citizens 3 euros ($3.16) each, with the rest subsidized by the government.

The tests will remain free for people who can prove they belong to vulnerable groups, for visitors to care homes and hospitals, and for small children.

The planned end to free tests at the end of June has raised concerns that Germany might experience an undetected rise in coronavirus cases over the coming months as people unwittingly spread the virus.

Lauterbach said the government has calculated that subsidies for the tests will cost some 2.6 billion euros in the second half of the year — about a third of what it paid in the same period of 2021.

Germany on Friday recorded over 108,000 newly confirmed COVID-19 cases in 24 hours, and 90 additional deaths.

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Захід повинен зберігати єдність щодо України – Байден

«Путін від самого початку розраховував на те, що НАТО і G7 розколяться, але ми цього не зробили і не збираємося»

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US Supreme Court Eliminates Constitutional Right to Abortion

A conservative supermajority in the U.S. Supreme Court struck down on Friday the constitutional right to an abortion by overturning Roe vs. Wade, the 1973 decision that legalized the procedure in the United States. The 6-3 court decision follows a move by the high court to loosen restriction on guns in America despite modest gun control measures passed by Congress and signed by President Joe Biden. VOA’s Arash Arabasadi has more on the rulings.

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Зеленський звернувся до білорусів: «цей тиждень буде дуже важливим для нас усіх»

«Будь-яка людина, просто нормальна людина в будь-якій державі, зокрема в Білорусі, може зробити свій внесок у захист життя»

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Російські гелікоптери некерованими ракетами атакували Сумщину, є жертви – ОВА

Постраждали території чотирьох громад – Юнаківської, Білопільської, Краснопільської та Шалигінської.

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Russia Attacks Ukraine’s Two Biggest Cities, Kyiv and Kharkiv 

Russia launched new missile attacks Sunday on Ukraine’s two biggest cities, the capital of Kyiv and Kharkiv, even as leaders of the Group of Seven nations from the world’s leading democracies held talks in the Bavarian Alps to determine new ways to isolate Moscow.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said at least two apartment buildings in the city were hit, leaving at least one person dead, and four others injured.

Russia ramped up its use of cruise missiles, striking targets across northwestern Ukraine. Air raid sirens blared in several cities.

“It’s more of their barbarism,” U.S. President Joe Biden said of the Russian strike on Kyiv as he appeared at a G-7 welcoming ceremony with Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is a key focus of the summit. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday he will take part in the meeting Monday.

Biden said that the United States and the other G-7 economies will ban the import of Russian gold, the latest sanction imposed on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine, now in its fifth month.

The leaders of the G-7 nations — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States — are trying to maintain unity against Russia, even with the war’s growing toll on the global economy, including in the U.S., which is confronting a four-decade high surge in consumer prices.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on CNN’s “State of the Union” show that Western nations cannot succumb to weariness in the fight against Russia and “have to step up to freedom and democracy.”

Johnson called the U.S. “a shining city on the hill and it will continue to be” in the pursuit of Ukrainian freedom. He said it would be “catastrophic” for Russian President Vladimir Putin to prevail in taking over Ukraine.

Russia has made advances in eastern Ukraine even though it failed earlier in the war to topple Zelenskyy’s government or capture Kyiv.

The new attack on Kyiv came a day after the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, a major victory for Russia after weeks of fierce fighting, with the ongoing battles resulting in international food and fuel price increases.

Russia now controls virtually all of the Luhansk province, part of the eastern Donbas region that Moscow is trying to take over, one of its major war aims.

Russian rocket attacks across Ukraine on Saturday were reported to be launched from Belarusian airspace, just hours before Putin met with Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Zelenskyy said in his daily address Saturday that “Ukraine needs more armed assistance, and that air defense systems — the modern systems that our partners have — should be not in training areas or storage facilities, but in Ukraine, where they are now needed. Needed more than anywhere else in the world.”

Ukraine said Russian forces had fully occupied Lysychansk, a neighboring city of Sievierodonetsk, in the eastern Luhansk region. Moscow claimed it had encircled about 2,000 Ukrainian troops in the area.

To stabilize the situation in Luhansk, Ukraine needs “fire parity” with Russia, Ukraine’s top general told his U.S. counterpart Friday.

“We discussed the operational situation and the delivery flow of international technical assistance,” Ukraine’s General Valeriy Zaluzhnyy wrote on the Telegram app after a phone call with the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley.

Ukraine has said Russia’s artillery advantage on the Donbas front lines is taking a significant toll on Ukrainian troops and has called on its Western partners to supply more weapons to minimize the deficit.

A senior U.S. defense official Friday praised the Ukrainian decision to withdraw from Sievierodonetsk, describing the move as “professional” and “tactical.”

“What they are doing is putting themselves in a position where they can better defend themselves,” the official told reporters on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss intelligence and other sensitive information.

And while the official said Russian forces have been able to gain ground around Sievierodonetsk, the gains have come at considerable cost.

“The Russians have suffered heavy casualties and they also have suffered heavy equipment losses,” the official said. “The Russian forces are showing the signs of wear and tear, and debilitated morale, and it is impacting their ability to move forward swiftly.”

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Війська РФ намагаються блокувати Лисичанськ з південного напрямку – Генштаб ЗСУ

За даними Генштабу, для підтримки наступальних дій противник посилив угруповання артилерії.

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Thousands Protest in Madrid against NATO Summit

Carrying the hammer and sickle flags of the former Soviet Union, thousands protested in Madrid on Sunday against a NATO summit which will take place in the Spanish capital this week.

Amid tight security, leaders of the member countries will meet in Madrid on June 29-30 as the organization faces the unprecedented challenge of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

NATO is expected to consider the bid, opposed by alliance-member Turkey, for Finland and Sweden to join.

The Nordic nations applied in the wake of the Russian assault on Ukraine. Russian President Vladimir Putin calls the war a special military operation he says in part responds to the accession to NATO of other countries near post-Soviet Russia’s borders since the 1990s.

“Tanks… yes, but of beer with tapas,” sang demonstrators, who claimed an increase in defense spending in Europe urged by NATO was a threat to peace.

“I am fed up (with) this business of arms and killing people. The solution they propose is more arms and wars and we always pay for it. So, no NATO, no (army) bases, let the Americans go and leave us alone without wars and weapons,” said Concha Hoyos, a retired Madrid resident, told Reuters.

Another protester, Jaled, 29, said NATO was not the solution to the war in Ukraine. 

Organizers claimed 5,000 people joined the march, but authorities in Madrid put the number at 2,200.

Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said in a newspaper interview published Sunday that the summit would also focus on the threat from Europe’s southern flank in Africa, in which he said Russia posed a threat to Europe.

“The foreign ministers’ dinner on the 29th will be centered on the southern flank,” he told El Pais newspaper. 

 

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Обговорювали війну в Україні. Джонсон застеріг Макрона від спроб «залагодити конфлікт»

Сторони також погодилися, що нині – «критичний момент для перебігу війни», є можливість змінити її хід

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Біля Одеси знищили дві російські ракети – Братчук

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Саміт «Групи семи» відкрився у Німеччині. Україна – у центрі уваги

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Доба на Харківщині: одна загибла, семеро поранених – Синєгубов

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Russia Attacks Ukraine Capital

Russia launched an attack on Ukraine’s capital Sunday.

Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said at least one apartment building was hit in the shelling.

The attack Sunday comes on the same day that Group of Seven leaders from the world’s richest democracies are meeting in Germany.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine will be a main focus of the summit. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said Saturday he will take part in the summit Monday.

Before the opening of the summit, U.S. President Joe Biden said that the U.S. and the other G-7 economies will ban the import of Russian gold, the latest sanction imposed on Russia in response to its invasion of Ukraine.

The attack on Ukraine’s capital comes a day after the withdrawal of Ukrainian troops from the eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, a major victory for Russia after weeks of fierce fighting, with the ongoing battles resulting in international food and fuel price hikes.

Meanwhile, Russia launched rocket attacks across Ukraine on Saturday. The attacks were reported to be launched from Belarusian airspace, just hours before Russian President Vladimir Putin was scheduled to meet with Belarusian President Aleksandr Lukashenko in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Zelenskyy said in his daily address Saturday that “Ukraine needs more armed assistance, and that air defense systems — the modern systems that our partners have – should be not in training areas or storage facilities, but in Ukraine, where they are now needed. Needed more than anywhere else in the world.”

Ukraine said Russian forces had fully occupied Lysychansk, a neighboring city of Sievierodonetsk, in the eastern Luhansk region. Moscow claimed it had encircled about 2,000 Ukrainian troops in the area.

The Russian advances appeared to bring the Kremlin closer to taking full control of Luhansk province, one of Moscow’s stated war objectives.

To stabilize the situation in Luhansk, Ukraine needs “fire parity” with Russia, Ukraine’s top general told his U.S. counterpart Friday.

“We discussed the operational situation and the delivery flow of international technical assistance,” Ukraine’s General Valeriy Zaluzhniy wrote on the Telegram app after a phone call with the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley.

Ukraine has said Russia’s artillery advantage on the Donbas front lines is taking a significant toll on Ukrainian troops and has called on its Western partners to supply more weapons to minimize the deficit.

A senior U.S. defense official on Friday praised the Ukrainian decision to withdraw from Sievierodonetsk, describing the move as “professional” and “tactical.”

“What they are doing is putting themselves in a position where they can better defend themselves,” the official told reporters on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss intelligence and other sensitive information.

And while the official said Russian forces have been able to eke out gains around Sievierodonetsk, the gains have come at considerable cost.

“The Russians have suffered heavy casualties and they also have suffered heavy equipment losses,” the official said. “The Russian forces are showing the signs of wear and tear, and debilitated morale, and it is impacting their ability to move forward swiftly.”