The Pentagon revealed that Ukraine had started using the first batch of American missile launchers "HIMARS", while Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the European Union and NATO of conspiring to wage war against Russia.

The Pentagon said that the second batch of rocket launchers, with a range of up to 80 kilometers, will arrive in Ukraine next month.

The HIMARs that Ukraine has received are not considered to be from long-range systems of several hundred kilometers, as those of the US military.

Joe Biden noted that these launchers "will make it possible to strike key targets on the battlefield in Ukraine more accurately," with Kyiv stressing that they will not be used "to strike the Russian territory."

HIMARS bombers are among the types of weapons that Ukraine received from the United States (US Army)

A senior US defense official said on Friday that Russia was trying unsuccessfully to block Western weapons flowing into Ukraine, including longer-range missile systems that Kyiv hopes will be decisive on the battlefield.

Zelensky's gratitude

For his part, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed his gratitude for the European Union's acceptance of Ukraine's granting the status of a candidate country to the European Union, and said that the move was a unique and historic moment.

In the same context, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) of conspiring to wage war against Russia.

"We do not believe that the current anti-Russianness of the European Union will dissipate or change somewhat in the near future, to be honest: nor in the long term," he said during a visit to Azerbaijan.

Lavrov was also quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying that Nazi Germany under Adolf Hitler mobilized other European countries to attack the Soviet Union at the beginning of World War II.

"Now, the European Union and NATO are forming a modern coalition to fight and, in the end, to wage war on the Russian Federation. We will follow all this closely," Lavrov said.

Regarding the decision of the European Union summit to grant Ukraine the status of a candidate for the bloc, Lavrov said that this does not pose a threat to Russia, as the European Union is not a military alliance, unlike NATO.

Lavrov also added by saying that European leaders dictate their decisions to the countries that want to join the European Union, and incite them to enmity with us.

Lavrov added that the European parties concerned with the crisis in Ukraine are urging Kyiv to negotiate with Russia, but the United States and Britain are preventing it from doing so.

Lavrov described the actions of the United Nations Secretary-General regarding the Russian and Ukrainian grain export crisis as prolonging the crisis, due to his insistence on solving the Ukrainian grain export problems first, as he put it.


Ukrainian withdrawal

On the ground, Al-Jazeera correspondent - quoting Sergei Gaidi, governor of Lugansk Province - reported that the Ukrainian army forces in Severodonetsk had received orders to withdraw to more fortified places.

Gaidi added that the Russian forces have been bombing the city for about 4 months every day, and that 90% of its houses were damaged as a result of the continuous bombardment, without specifying a timetable for this withdrawal, or whether it will take place in agreement with the Russian side.

Gaidi said that Russian helicopters bombed the bridge at the entrance to the city of Lyschansk, explaining that the bridge was not completely destroyed, but it is no longer suitable for trucks, and that small cars will be allowed to cross on the bridge.

A senior US defense official played down Russia's progress in Ukraine and said a withdrawal from Severodonetsk would allow its forces to take better defensive positions.

"The Ukrainian armed forces' retreat from Severodonetsk puts them in a better position to defend themselves," said the official, who asked not to be named.

The Ukrainian Army Staff Command also announced that its forces were able to stop the Russian attack on the southern outskirts of the city of Lysichansk, and confirmed the infliction of heavy losses on the attackers and forcing them to retreat.

The Southern Operations Command stated that its forces repelled an attempt to storm a Russian reconnaissance unit on advanced positions of the Ukrainian forces from the Kherson side, confirming the killing of many members of the advancing force.

The Ukrainian army said that its forces targeted, with five air strikes, the positions of Russian forces in separate areas in the south of the country.

He added that his air defenses shot down this morning a number of Russian missiles in the Mykolaiv district, and that two of them fell in a non-residential area.


Repel an intrusion attempt

On the other hand, the military and civilian leadership in the canton called on residents to stay in safe places, in order to avoid possible artillery strikes on them.

The Southern Operations Command also reported that its forces repelled an attempt to storm a Russian reconnaissance unit on advanced positions of the Ukrainian forces from the Kherson side, confirming that they had eliminated many of its members.

On the other hand, the pro-Russian Lugansk authorities said that 3 civilians were killed in a Ukrainian bombing that targeted a hospital in the part under the control of its forces in the city of Severodonetsk, which caused significant damage to the hospital.

The pro-Russian Lugansk authorities also said that their forces control the towns of "Zolotoy" and "Gorskoy" southwest of the city of Lysechansk, adding that the Ukrainian forces that were trapped in a small enclave south of Lysechansk were eliminated, she said.

Kaliningrad Crisis

In a parallel context, the governor of the Russian province of Kaliningrad said that he had information about the direction of the European Union to end the ban on goods crossing into the region.

Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said that the ban on the transit of goods to the Russian province of Kaliningrad was dictated by the clear dictates of Washington.

Zakharova added that it is hardly a coincidence that the West has banned the transit of a wide range of goods by rail through the Kaliningrad region.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also said it was impossible to hold expert-level consultations with Washington in the near future.

Wagner's forces

On the other hand, the British Military Intelligence said that Russia is seeking to support its air force with elements from the "Wagner" company, due to the limited efficiency of its pilots and the size of its losses.

The agency considered that Russia's employment of contract pilots with Wagner indicates that its air force suffers from a shortage of crews.

British intelligence suggested that the Russian pilot's use of the commercial GPS system indicates that the Wagner fighter jets are old Su-25 models, and that the Russian Air Force does not provide them with the latest navigation equipment.

British intelligence indicates that the Russian pilot, who fell into the hands of the Ukrainian forces about a week ago, admitted that he was a former major in the Russian Air Force, and worked as a military contractor for the "Wagner" company, and carried out several tasks during the war.

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