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Official: Russia traps civilians at Severodonetsk's Azot chemical plant

Official: Russia traps civilians at Severodonetsk's Azot chemical plant
A Ukrainian soldier walks past a part of a rocket near the front line in the city of Severodonetsk, Luhansk region, Ukraine on June 2. Photo by EPA-EFE

June 17 (UPI) -- A Ukrainian official claimed Friday that Moscow is preventing civilians from leaving the key eastern hub city of Severodonetsk as Russia continued its bombardment efforts to finally control the region.

Russia has been attacking Severodonetsk for weeks, often squaring off with Ukrainian troops in street battles, which has gained Moscow the majority of the city but not enough to claim control of it.

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Luhansk Gov. Serhai Haidai said Russia's continued attack on the Azot chemical plant in Severodonetsk has essentially trapped the remaining civilians there, making it "impossible and physically dangerous" to leave.

Haidai said there are 568 people remaining at the chemical plant, where civilians have hidden since Moscow ramped up its shelling of the city over the past weeks in hopes of driving out Ukrainian fighters.

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"Exiting the plant is possible only with a complete ceasefire," said Haidai, according to The Guardian, adding that 38 children were among the civilians.

One separatist leader told Russian media that it plans to reopen humanitarian corridors for civilians willing to leave the plant.

The Ukrainian navy said it hit the Russian rescue tug Spasatel Vasily Bekh that was attempting to transport ammunition, weapons and personnel for the Kremlin's Black Sea Fleet to Snake Island. Ukraine said itused two Harpoon missiles in the attack.

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Mykolaiv Gov. Vitaliy Kim said at least two people have been killed and 20 injured in a Russian missile attack there in southern Ukraine.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's speech at the St.Petersburg Economic Forum on Friday was delayed after a massive cyberattack, hampering the event's computer systems.

A wide series of denial-of-service attacks shut down the forum's accreditation system out of commission, stalling the venue's security checks.

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"Today, unfortunately, the badge access database was disabled and there is now a hitch with getting badges and confirming the right to access the session," Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to The Washington Post. "We will fix it, but it will take time."

Moscow did not discuss what it believed was the source of the large cyberattacks.

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