WRAPUP 5-Ukraine says it will prevail over Russia as eastern battle grinds on
Adds details on Sievierodonetsk chemical plant
By Natalia Zinets and Max Hunder
KYIV, June 11 (Reuters) - President Volodymyr Zelenskiy insisted on Saturday that Ukraine would prevail in its almost four-month-long war with Russia that has become focussed on a grinding artillery slugging match over an eastern Ukrainian city.
Russian forces have been trying to seize Sievierodonetsk in an advance in the east, turning it into one of the bloodiest battles so far. Neither side has secured a knock-out blow in fighting that has pounded swathes of the city into rubble.
Ukraine has appealed for swifter deliveries of heavy weapons from the West to turn the tide of the war with Russian forces - which it says have at least 10 times more artillery pieces than Ukrainian forces. Yet, even when outgunned, Ukraine's army has proved more resilient than expected in early phases of fighting.
"We are definitely going to prevail in this war that Russia has started," Zelenskiy told a conference in Singapore by videolink. "It is on the battlefields in Ukraine that the future rules of this world are being decided."
The conflict between the neighbours - two of the world's biggest grain exporters - has reverberated well beyond Ukraine's borders.
Since Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 global food prices have shot up. The United Nations said on Friday that as many as 19 million more people around the world could face chronic hunger in the next year because of the reduced exports of wheat and other food commodities. nL8N2XX2N2
Global energy prices have also surged as the West has ratcheted up sanctions on Russia, a top oil and gas exporter.
"If due to Russian blockades, we are unable to export our foodstuffs, which is so sorely missing in global markets, the world will face an acute and severe food crisis and famine - famine in many countries of Asia and Africa," Zelenskiy said.
Turkey has tried to secure a deal so Ukraine can resume shipments from its Black Sea ports, which accounted for 98% of its cereal and oilseed exports before the war. But Moscow says Kyiv must clear the ports of mines and Ukraine says it needs security guarantees so it is not left exposed. nL1N2XX1FP
INTENSE STREET FIGHTING
"As Ukrainian forces use the last of their stocks of Soviet-era weapon systems and munitions, they will require consistent Western support to transition to new supply chains of ammunition and key artillery systems," the Institute for the Study of War said in a report on Friday, adding that effective artillery would be vital in the "largely static fighting" in the east.
Britain's defence ministry said on Saturday that Russian forces around Sievierodonetsk had not made advances into the south of the urban centre as of Friday and said the city was the scene of "intense street to street fighting".
Sievierodonestsk lies in Ukraine's eastern province of Luhansk, over which Russia wants complete control. It has demanded Ukraine cede it to separatists along with neighbouring Donetsk. The two provinces make up the Donbas region, where Moscow has backed a revolt by separatist proxies since 2014.
Ukraine's Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russian forces controlled most of the city, after a grinding to-and-fro of advances and retreats, but Ukraine still controlled the city's Azot chemical plant where hundreds of civilians are sheltering.
He denied a separatist claim that 300 to 400 Ukrainian fighters were trapped there.
"Our forces are holding an industrial zone of Sievierodonetsk and are destroying the Russian army in the town," Gaidai said on the Telegram app.
The battle over Sievierodonetsk and its destruction recall weeks of bombardment of the southern port city of Mariupol. It was reduced to ruins before Russian forces took control of the city last month, with the last Ukrainian defenders surrendering from their redoubt in the sprawling Azovstal steel plant.
The mayor of Mariupol said on Friday that sanitation systems were broken and corpses were rotting in the streets.
The office of Ukraine's prosecutor general said on Telegram at least 287 children had died in the war so far, after it said it had learned about the deaths of 24 more children in Mariupol.
Moscow has denied targeting civilians, but both sides say they have inflicted mass casualties on each other's forces.
Reuters has not been able to independently verify the battlefield reports in the conflict.
Russia calls its actions a "special military operation" to disarm and "denazify" Ukraine, while Kyiv and its allies call it an unprovoked war of aggression to capture territory.
Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right nownL4N2XR01X
The sea mines floating between Ukraine’s grain stocks and the worldnL1N2XX1FP
(Reporting by Natalia Zinets and Max Hunder
Additional reporting by Reuters bureaux
Writing by Edmund Blair
Editing by Frances Kerry)