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Russian artillery destroying Sievierodonetsk, hundreds of civilians shelter in chemical plant

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© Reuters. A local resident looks at grass that is on fire after a shelling, amid Russia’s attack on Ukraine, near the town of Bakhmut, Donetsk region Ukraine June 12, 2022. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich

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By Natalia Zinets and Maria Starkova

KYIV (Reuters) -Russian troops swarmed into Sievierodonetsk, as their artillery pounded parts of the city where Ukrainian defenders mounted a desperate rearguard action in the fiercest fighting of a wider battle for control over Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region.

The Russian destruction of a bridge left stranded civilians with just one remaining bridge to escape across a river to the neighbouring city of Lysychansk, which was also being shelled but was still in Ukrainian hands.

Hundreds of civilians in Sievierodonetsk were sheltering in the city’s Azot chemical plant, creating a scenario similar to

the fall of the southern port city of Mariupol, where hundreds of people were trapped for weeks in the Azovstal steelworks.

“Russians continue to storm the city, having a significant advantage in artillery they have somewhat pushed back the Ukrainian soldiers,” said Serhiy Gaidai, governor of the Luhansk region.

“The Russians are destroying quarter after quarter,” Gaidai said on Monday.

Russian forces have taken most of Sievierodonetsk, having pulverized parts of the city in one of the bloodiest assaults since they invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address on Sunday that Russia was trying to pour military reserves into the Donbas.

“The key tactical goal of the occupiers has not changed: they are pressing in Sievierodonetsk, severe fighting is ongoing there – literally for every metre,” Zelenskiy said.

Zelenskiy said attacks that resulted in child casualties had created a lasting image of Russia for the rest of the world.

“These very facts will underscore the way in which Russia is seen by the world,” he said.

“Not Peter the Great, not Lev Tolstoy, but children injured and killed in Russian attacks,” he said, in an apparent reference to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s remarks last week comparing Moscow’s military campaign to Russian emperor Peter the Great’s 18th century conquest of lands held by Sweden.

Russia has denied targeting civilians.

Putin launched what he called a “special operation” to restore Russian security and “denazify” its southern neighbour. Ukraine and its Western allies call this a baseless pretext for a war which has raised fears of wider conflict in Europe.

In the biggest assault on a European country since World War Two, more than five million people have fled Ukraine, thousands have died and cities left in rubble. The war has sparked a global energy and food crisis by disrupting gas, oil and grain supplies from Russia and Ukraine.

TRAPPED IN CHEMICAL PLANT

After failing to take the capital Kyiv, Moscow turned its attention to expanding control in the Donbas, where pro-Russian separatists have held territory since 2014.

In Sievierodonetsk, the last pocket of Ukrainian land held in the strategic Luhansk region, Ukrainian troops were fighting street by street to hold onto the city, with both Ukrainian and Russian forces suffering heavy losses, Roman Vlasenko, head of Sievierodonetsk district administration, told local TV.

“Our boys are holding on but the conditions are tough,” he said. Vlasenko said the city had been without communications and normal services for a month.

Russian shelling had hit the Azot chemical plant area three times, said Luhansk governor Gaidai.

“About 500 civilians remain on the grounds of the Azot plant in Sievierodonetsk, 40 of them are children. Sometimes the military manages to evacuate someone,” he said.

The destruction of a bridge over the Siverskyi Donets River linking Sievierodonetsk to Lysychansk has left just one of three bridges still standing, he said.

“If after new shelling the bridge collapses, the city will truly be cut off. There will be no way of leaving Sievierodonetsk in a vehicle,” Gaidai said, noting the lack of a cease-fire agreement or agreement on evacuation corridors.

Gaidai said Lysychansk was also being shelled by Russian forces, and a six-year-old child had been killed there.

Reuters could not independently confirm that account.

In Pokrovsk, southwest of Sievierodonetsk, women, children and elderly, some in wheelchairs, boarded the only train evacuating people on Saturday, at the start of a long journey from the conflict zone to safety in Lviv near the border with Poland.

“We held on until the last moment, we didn’t want to leave, but life has forced us to survive,” Lyuba, a woman from Lysychansk, told Reuters Television as she waited for the train to depart. “We are leaving, we don’t know where, to whom, but we are leaving.”

ARMS SUPPLIES REQUESTED

In Western Ukraine, Russian cruise missiles destroyed a large depot containing U.S. and European weapons in the Ternopil region, Russia’s Interfax agency reported.

Ternopil’s governor said rockets fired from the Black Sea at the city of Chortkiv had partly destroyed a military facility and injured 22 people. A local official said there were no weapons stored there.

Reuters could not independently confirm the differing accounts.

On Sunday, the Ukrainian general staff said on Facebook (NASDAQ:META) that General Valeriy Zaluzhny, the head of Ukraine’s armed forces, had spoken to General Mark Milley, the top U.S. military officer, and reiterated a request for more heavy artillery systems.

Moscow has criticised the United States and other nations for sending Ukraine weapons, threatening to strike new targets if the West supplied long-range missiles.

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U.S. increased forecasts for crude oil and natural gas production in the country in 2022

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Crude oil and natural gas production will be raised. The U.S. Energy Department raised its 2022 domestic crude oil production (excluding other liquid hydrocarbons) forecast from 11.83 million to 11.87 million barrels per day, the Energy Information Administration (EIA) said in its monthly forecast. The forecast is 0.62 million bpd higher than the 2021 result.

The agency also slightly increased its 2023 production forecast by 30,000 bpd, to 12.34 million bpd. It is close to the annual average. This figure is close to the average annual record for oil production in the United States, set in 2019, – 12.3 million bpd.

Also, the Department of Energy slightly raised its 2022 and 2023 U.S. gas production forecasts. Gas production will be 98.13 Bcf/d in 2022 and 100.38 Bcf/d in 2023 (nearly 1.2 trillion cubic feet of gas per year).

The previous forecast had assumed production of 98.07 and 99.69 Bcf/d, respectively. In 2021, the country produced 94.6 Bcf/d of gas.

While the EIA still expects gas production in the Permian Basin to be constrained in early 2023, it anticipates that these constraints will be removed sooner than previously projected, although risks remain.

The Department of Energy expects natural gas prices to rise from their November level of $5.5 per MMBtu to over $6 per MMBtu in Q1 2023 because of both higher winter demand for natural gas and increased LNG exports. This will impact crude oil and gas prices.

U.S. LNG exports are expected to be 10.6 Bcf/d in 2022, up from 10.85 Bcf/d a month ago, and rising to 12.25 Bcf/d in 2023 (nearly 145 Bcf/d); the previous forecast of 12.33 Bcf/d.

Earlier we reported that the Expert revealed the reason for the sharp fall in oil prices.

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The expert revealed the reason for the crude oil price chart dump

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crude oil price chart

World oil prices have fallen to the level of early January, as expectations of a sharp decline in oil supplies from Russia after the start of the embargo and more aggressive actions by OPEC+ to maintain prices have not materialized. This is the reason for the crude oil price chart dump.

Live crude oil price in dollars – what’s going on?

On Wednesday, Brent crude oil prices fell below $78 a barrel for the first time since January 3. February futures are trading at $79.6 a barrel.

Prices were probably driven by expectations of a sharp drop in oil supplies from Russia due to the embargo, and more aggressive action by OPEC+ to maintain prices; i.e., production cuts. Neither of these things happened; OPEC+ decided on Sunday not to change its production quota and, judging by media reports, Russian companies prepared for the embargo, including tanker fleet acquisitions.

Meanwhile, the Financial Times newspaper reported on Monday, citing oil traders, intermediaries and vessel-tracking services, that a traffic jam of oil tankers has formed off the Turkish coast since the start of restrictions on oil prices from Russia due to Ankara’s requirements to provide insurance data. According to the expert, a delay in the passage of ships could have led to an increase in oil prices on expectations of a shortage, but this has not happened yet.

According to marinetraffic, a ship-tracking portal, there are about 30 tankers, mostly Turkish, off the Turkish coast near the strait. Five tankers out of this number are Russian. Russia is concerned about the situation off the coast of Turkey, where Russian oil tankers have piled up; this problem is now being discussed through transport and insurance companies. but it may also be taken up at a political level.

Western oil sanctions came into effect on December 5: The European Union stopped accepting Russian oil transported by, and so also the “Big Seven” countries. Australia and the EU, imposed a price cap on such oil at $60 per barrel. Deputy Prime Minister Alexander Novak said Sunday that Russia is considering possible mechanisms to ban the application of the price ceiling for Russian oil supplies.

Earlier, we reported that oil prices fell before the release of statistics on inventories in the U.S.

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Crude oil prices today declined before the release of U.S. inventory statistics

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crude oil prices today

World oil prices on Wednesday afternoon moved to some decrease, according to trading data. Markets are waiting for weekly statistics on commercial oil reserves in the U.S.

Brent crude oil prices were down 0.67% to $78.82 per barrel, while WTI January futures decreased 0.67% to $73.75. Oil prices were weak in the morning.

Later Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Energy will report data on the country’s commercial oil inventories for the week through December 2. Analysts believe the figure fell by 3.3 million barrels. On Wednesday night, the American Petroleum Institute (API) said it estimates a 6.4 million-barrel decline in inventories.

Crude oil prices today continue to be affected by uncertainty regarding the prospects of oil supplies. From December 5, the oil sanctions of the West came into effect: the European Union stopped accepting Russian oil transported by sea; also the G7 countries. Australia and the EU imposed a price cap on such oil at $60 per barrel.

The Russian authorities are developing three possible responses. The first one is a complete ban on sales to the countries that supported the restriction, including through intermediary countries or even their chain; the second one is a ban on exports under contracts that include a price ceiling condition; and the third one introduces an indicative price – the maximum discount of Russian Urals oil to the benchmark Brent grade, and a ban on selling at a higher discount.

Earlier we reported on the Big Tanker Jam in the Bosphorus due to the price cap on Russian oil.

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