By Pavel Polityuk and Vitalii Hnidyi
Kyiv (Reuters) – President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said Moscow’s massive airstrikes and artillery attacks were aimed at destroying the entire Donbas region and urged Ukraine’s allies to speed up the sending of heavy weapons by match Russia on the battlefield.
The struggle for the twin cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk in the Luhansk region of Ukraine “is entering a kind of formidable climax,” said Oleksiy Arestovych, Zelenskiy’s adviser. Russia is trying to capture Luhansk and Donetsk, which make up the Donbas region, the nation’s industrial heartland.
At the diplomatic level on Thursday, European leaders will officially put Ukraine on the road to EU membership at a summit in Brussels. While mostly symbolic, the move will help lift morale after four months of bloody conflict that has killed thousands, displaced millions and destroyed cities.
“We must liberate our land and achieve victory, but faster, much faster,” Zelenskiy said in a video address posted early Thursday, reiterating Ukraine’s demands for bigger and faster weapons.
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“There were massive air and artillery attacks on the Donbas. The target of the occupier here has not changed, they want to destroy the whole Donbas step by step,” he said.
“That is why we have repeatedly insisted on accelerating arms deliveries to Ukraine. What is needed quickly is parity on the battlefield to stop this evil army and push it beyond the borders. of Ukraine “.
The fierce war of attrition in the Donbas is the most important in Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.
Ukrainian forces were defending Sievierodonetsk and the nearby settlements of Zolote and Vovchoyrovka, Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Thursday, but added that Russia had captured Loskutivka and Rai-Oleksandrivka in the south.
Hundreds of civilians are trapped in a chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk, with Ukraine and Russia vying for control of the bombed city.
Moscow says Ukrainian forces in the city are surrounded and trapped. But Gaidai told Ukrainian television on Wednesday that “Russian forces do not have full control.”
In Lysychansk, Gaidai said it was “very dangerous in the city” as everything was within reach of the Russian fire.
“To avoid the siege, our command could order troops to withdraw to new positions. There may be a regrouping after last night,” he added.
The Tass news agency quoted Russian-backed separatists as saying that Lysychansk was now surrounded and cut off from supply after a road connecting the city with the city of Sieviersk was taken.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the report.
According to the British Ministry of Defense, it is very likely that Russian forces have advanced more than 5 km (3.11 miles) towards the southern approaches to Lysychansk since June 19.
“Some Ukrainian units have withdrawn, probably to avoid being surrounded,” he told https://twitter.com/DefenceHQ/status/1539836706530156544/photo/1 on Twitter.
“Russian forces are putting the pocket of Lysychansk-Sievierodonetsk under increasing pressure with this rampant advance … however, their efforts to secure a deeper encirclement to take the west of Donetsk Oblast remain stalled,” he said. add the ministry.
Arestovych said Russian forces in both cities were recruited from different levels of training after Ukraine inflicted heavy losses on Russian forces. Reuters was unable to verify its comments on the Russian losses.
“It’s like two boxers fighting each other in the 18th round of a fight and they can barely move things forward. This operation began on April 14 and has been going on for almost 80 days,” he said in a video. on line.
Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24 in what the Kremlin calls a “special operation” to ensure Russian security and de-Nazify Ukraine. Ukraine and the West call this an unfounded pretext for a war of choice that has raised fears of a wider conflict in Europe.
Russia has long been opposed to closer ties between Ukraine, a former Soviet state, and Western clubs such as the European Union (EU) and the NATO military alliance.
Zelenskiy said he had spoken to 11 EU leaders on Wednesday about Ukraine’s candidacy and would make more calls on Thursday.
Diplomats say Ukraine will need a decade or more to meet the criteria to enter the EU. But EU leaders say the bloc must make a gesture in recognition of Ukraine’s sacrifice.
The war in Ukraine has had a massive impact on the global economy and European security, driving up gas, oil and food prices, pushing the EU to reduce its heavy dependence on Russian energy and that Finland and Sweden seek NATO membership.
The EU will temporarily return to coal to deal with declining Russian gas flows without derailing long-term climate targets, an EU official said on Wednesday.
Group of Seven and NATO leaders will try to increase pressure on Russia at next week’s meetings, US administration officials said.
(Reuters office report; written by Michael Perry; edition by Himani Sarkar)
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