Russian forces have stepped up their shelling in Ukraine’s Kharkiv and Donetsk regions, Kyiv said yesterday, after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said to expect greater hostilities ahead of a historic EU decision on Ukraine’s bid for candidate status.
Nearly four months after Russia launched a bloody invasion of his nation, Zelenskiy said in his evening address on Sunday that there had been “few such fateful decisions for Ukraine” as the one it expects from the EU this week.
“Obviously, we expect Russia to intensify hostile activity this week... We are preparing. We are ready,” he said.
Photo: Reuters / Ukrainian Presidential Press Service
Leaders of the EU’s 27 member states are to discuss at a summit on Thursday and Friday whether to add Ukraine to the list of nations vying for membership.
EU foreign ministers gathering in Luxembourg began the week urging Moscow to stop blocking the export of vitally needed grain from Ukraine, a top global supplier.
“One cannot imagine that millions of tonnes of wheat remain blocked in Ukraine, while in the rest of the world people are suffering hunger. This is a real war crime,” EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Josep Borrell said.
Moscow has denied responsibility for the food crisis, and blames Western sanctions for the disrupted deliveries that have pushed up cereal prices and fanned fears of famines in vulnerable regions.
On the ground, Russia appeared to be making some battlefield advances in the east.
In its daily update yesterday, Ukraine’s presidency reported heavier Russian shelling in the Kharkiv region in the northeast.
In the Donetsk region, the intensity of the attacks “is growing along the entire front line” it said, leaving at least one person dead and injuring seven people, including a child.
Fighting also continued in the key industrial city of Severodonetsk in the east, with Ukraine saying that it had lost control of the adjacent village of Metyolkine.
“Unfortunately, we do not control Metyolkine anymore and the enemy continues to build up its reserves,” Lugansk Governor Sergiy Gaiday wrote on social media.
Moscow’s forces have for weeks been battling to seize the eastern Donbas region, after being repelled from other parts of the nation following the Feb. 24 invasion.
A chemical plant in Severodonetsk, where hundreds of civilians are said to be sheltering, was being shelled “constantly,” Gaiday said.
On Sunday, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the war could grind on “for years,” and urged Western nations to be ready to offer long-term military, political and economic aid.
Ukraine has repeatedly urged Western nations to step up their deliveries of arms, despite warnings from nuclear-armed Russia that it could trigger wider conflict.
The Russian Ministry of Defense on Sunday said that it had launched missile strikes during the previous 24 hours, with one attack on a top-level Ukrainian military meeting near the city of Dnipro killing “more than 50 generals and officers.”
It said that it also targeted a building housing weapons in Mykolaiv, destroying Ukrainian artillery and armored vehicles.
There was no independent verification of the claims.
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