Russian forces now control “most” of the eastern Ukrainian capital, Severodonetsk, a regional governor said on Tuesday.
Ukraine, meanwhile, has been investigating war crimes since Russia’s invasion. Officials say thousands have been pledged in the East Donbass region alone and that it has sent two Russian soldiers to prison elsewhere in the country.
Severodonetsk is one of the industrial centers on the verge of occupying the Lugansk region of Donbass, Russia, where Moscow has shifted most of its firepower since its failure to occupy Kiev in the early stages of the war.
“Unfortunately, today, Russian troops are controlling most of the city,” Lugansk Governor Sergei Gade said in a video, adding that Ukraine’s military was not at risk of being surrounded by force.
He added that “90 percent” of Severodonetsk had been destroyed.
The guide further warned that Russian forces had hit a tank containing nitric acid at the Severodonetsk chemical plant and called on people to stay in their shelters.
A second day meeting of EU leaders in Brussels has partially succeeded in tightening Moscow’s economic screws.
The head of the European Council, Charles Michel, tweeted that a compromise oil embargo had reached its end on Monday, meaning that Russia had cut off “a huge source of funding for its war machine” to punish Russia for its attacks.
– Discuss gas ban –
But the EU was divided on the issue of gas supplies and leaders ruled out the possibility of a quick embargo on Russia following a two-thirds embargo on oil imports.
Europe relies on Russian gas for about 40 percent of its supplies, and sanctions will exacerbate the existing pain from a power and inflation crisis.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has suggested that Brussels has made significant progress against Russian fossil fuels, and that it is time to focus on the “financial and economic sector”.
The oil embargo will “effectively reduce oil imports from Russia to the European Union by about 90 percent by the end of the year,” he said.
Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbn cut off supplies to Moscow via a compromise oil pipeline after warning that cutting off supplies of cheap Moscow crude would destroy his country’s economy.
“Families can sleep peacefully tonight, we have dropped the most hair-raising idea,” Orban, whose country borders western war-torn Ukraine, said in a video message.
Denmark, following in the footsteps of the Netherlands, Finland, Poland and Bulgaria, has already become the last European country to be targeted by Russia for gas exports.
Danish energy firm Orested said on Tuesday that Russian energy monopoly Gazprom Exports would cut gas supplies on Wednesday after the Danish company refused to pay the ruble, as demanded by the Russian government.
– ‘Save your life’ –
The situation on the eastern frontline of Donbass has become increasingly desperate, with Ukrainian cities facing constant shelling from Russian forces.
“We see some cars with Ukrainian flags, so we realize we’re still part of Ukraine,” said Yevgeny Onishchenko, a 42-year-old plumber in a powerless apartment in the twin city of Lysichansk in Severodonetsk.
“But otherwise, we’re in the dark.”
French journalist Friedrich Leclerc-Imhof was killed on Monday while covering the evacuation of civilians in the area.
Donetsk regional governor Pavlo Kirilenko said in a telegram on Tuesday that an overnight rocket attack in the town of Sloviansk had killed at least three people and injured six others.
“There is no safe place in the Donetsk region, so I’m calling again: evacuate – save your life,” he said.
Four more civilians were killed and seven were injured in Donetsk on Tuesday, he added in a subsequent telegram post.
Ukraine’s prosecutor general says authorities have identified “several thousand” war crimes cases in Donbass, including murder, torture and the forced displacement of children.
Prosecutor Irina Venediktova, who met with international opponents in The Hague on Tuesday, said Kyiv was already going to try 80 war crimes suspects on Ukrainian soil.
A Ukrainian court on Tuesday sentenced two Russian soldiers to 11 and a half years in prison for firing on civilians. Earlier this month, another man was sentenced to life in prison for killing a civilian.
Soldiers Alexander Bobkin and Alexander Ivanov were both convicted of firing Grad missiles at two villages in the northeastern Kharkiv region early on Tuesday.
– Odessa blockade proposal –
Russia’s aggression against its pro-Western neighbor also threatens a global food crisis, effectively removing Ukraine’s huge grain crop from the world market.
French President Emmanuel Macron said on Tuesday that he and German Chancellor Olaf Scholes had called on Vladimir Putin to end Russia’s blockade of the Ukrainian port of Odessa on the condition of a UN resolution.
Under the proposal, a UN resolution would establish a framework under which the mines set up by Ukrainian guards at the port could be removed and grain shipments could be resumed.
However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said it was up to the West and Kiev to resolve the crisis, starting with lifting sanctions.
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)