As Russian forces tightened their grip on the major cities of Severodonetsk and Lisichansk, the battle for control of the eastern Ukrainian territory of Donbass intensified on Sunday.
The situation in Lysichansk has become “significantly worse,” Sergei Guide, regional governor of the Lugansk region, told the messaging service, Telegram.
“A Russian shell fell on a residential building, a girl died and four others were hospitalized,” he said.
Meanwhile, on the east bank of the Donetsk River, Russian forces “attacked the city area of Severodonetsk,” according to Ukrainian general staff.
Fighting was raging in the city streets, Gaid said.
More than three months after Moscow attacked its pro-Western neighbor, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Schulz have called for “serious talks” between Russian leader Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart Vladimir Zelensky.
In an 80-minute phone call with the Russian leader on Saturday, the two European leaders “called for an immediate ceasefire and the withdrawal of Russian troops,” according to the German chancellor’s office.
Since failing to capture the capital Kyiv in the early stages of the war, Russia has focused on the eastern Donbass region in an effort to consolidate its territory.
“The situation is very difficult, especially in the Donbass and Kharkiv regions, where the Russian military is trying to hold back some results, at least for itself,” Zelensky said in his daily address to the nation late Saturday night.
Earlier, Russia’s Defense Ministry said “the city of Krasnoyarsk (named after Moscow’s Lyman) has been completely liberated from Ukrainian nationalists.”
According to a police official in the province of Lugansk, Lyman is lying on the streets of Kramatorsk and Severodonetsk, which is “now surrounded”, according to Russian state media.
However, Governor Gade insisted that “Severodonetsk was not cut off.
“There is still a possibility of providing humanitarian assistance,” he told Ukrainian television.
In Severodonetsk, where an estimated 15,000 civilians remain, a local official says “constant shelling” has made it increasingly difficult to enter or exit.
Alexander Struk, head of the city’s military and civilian administration, said: “The eviction is very unsafe, it is an isolated incident when we can evacuate people.
The water supply was also becoming increasingly unstable, as the lack of electricity meant the city’s well pumps were no longer working, he said.
Residents have been without mobile phone connections for more than two weeks, he added.
Governor Gayde said the only road connection with the outside world was expected to be the focus of continued Russian aggression.
“Next week will be very difficult, because Russia will use all its resources to occupy Severodonetsk or to sever (territory) from contact with Ukraine,” he said.
Putin ready to export grain
In their call with Putin, Scholes and Macron pointed to the global food security crisis.
In addition to occupying key ports such as Mariupol, Russia has used its warships to isolate other Ukrainian-held cities, preventing grain supplies from being transported.
Russia and Ukraine supply about 30 percent of the wheat traded on the world market.
Russia has tightened its own exports and Ukraine has blocked large quantities of storage, increased prices and reduced worldwide availability.
Putin has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, citing Western sanctions.
On Saturday, however, he told Macron and Schulz that Russia was “ready” to find ways to allow more wheat into the world market.
The Kremlin quoted him as saying, “Russia is ready to help find alternatives to uninterrupted grain exports, including Ukrainian grain exports from the Black Sea port.”
He also called for the lifting of sanctions to allow “increasing the supply of Russian fertilizers and agricultural products” on world markets.
Zelensky will speak to the EU
Zelensky’s emergency calls for more advanced weapons from Ukraine’s Western allies appear to be paying off, with Washington agreeing to send advanced long-range rocket systems, according to U.S. media reports.
Pentagon spokesman John Kirby did not confirm plans to provide the M270 Multiple Launch Rocket System, a high-end mobile device capable of firing up to 300 kilometers (186 miles), which Kyiv said it needed.
But he said Washington was “still committed to helping them succeed on the battlefield.”
Putin warned Macron and Schulz that increasing arms supplies to Ukraine would be “dangerous” and “at risk of further instability.”
On Sunday, the Russian Defense Ministry said it had destroyed the arsenal of the Ukrainian armed forces in the southeastern city of Kryvyi Rih with “long-range high-precision missiles.”
Russian forces also targeted a Ukrainian anti-aircraft defense system near Mykolaivka in the Donetsk region, as well as a radar station near Kharkiv and five weapons depots, one near Severodonetsk.
As Zelensky seeks to increase international pressure on Moscow, he will speak to EU leaders at an emergency summit on Monday on Russia’s oil embargo.
The deal is being negotiated by Hungary, which has close ties to Prime Minister Viktor Orban Putin.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)