Russian forces have stepped up their attacks on the Ukrainian city of Siviarodonetsk after Kyiv called for long-range weapons from the west and demanded the capture of a railway hub near Lehman.
The slow, strong Russian gains in recent days in Donbass, eastern Ukraine, which consists of the Luhansk and Donetsk regions, point to a subtle momentum change in the war, now in its fourth month.
The Kremlin is one of the targets of a more decent war after the invading forces seemed to be close to occupying all of the Luhansk territory, abandoning the attack on the capital Kiev in the face of Ukrainian resistance.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Saturday that its troops and allied separatist forces were in full control of Lyman, the site of a railway junction west of the Donetsk’s Sivarsky Donets River.
However, Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malir said the fight for Lehman continued, according to the ZN.ua website.
Sievierodonetsk, about 60 km (40 miles) east of Lyman on the east side of the river and still the largest Donbass town in Ukraine, was under heavy attack from the Russians.
Ukrainian police posted on social media, “Sivirodonetsk is constantly among the enemy’s bullets.”
Russian artillery was also hitting the Lysichansk-Bachmut road, which Russia must stop a Pinsar movement and encircle Ukrainian forces.
“There was significant destruction in Lisichansk,” police said.
The governor of Luhansk said on Friday that Russian troops had already entered Sieverodonetsk. Ukrainian troops may have to retreat to avoid capture, Governor Serhiy Gaidai said. It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.
Mikhail Podoliak, Ukraine’s presidential adviser and peace negotiator, has reiterated his call for US-made long-range multiple rocket launchers. U.S. officials told Reuters that with such systems being actively considered, a decision could be made in the coming days.
“If you are attacked from a distance of 70 kilometers, it is difficult to fight and there is nothing to fight against. Ukraine can return Russia behind the iron curtain, but we need effective weapons for that,” Podoliak posted on Twitter.
President Volodymyr Zelensky expressed hope in a late-night video speech that Ukraine’s allies would provide the necessary weapons, adding that he hoped for “good news” this week.
Ukrainian forces in Donbass said in a brief Facebook post that they had been defensive all day, repulsed seven Russian attacks and destroyed a tank.
Governor Gaidai said about 90% of the buildings in Siviarodonetsk had been damaged, with the latest shelling destroying 14 high-rise buildings.
Reuters could not independently verify the claims.
Zelensky said the military situation in Donbass is very complex, adding that the defense system is stuck in several places, including Siviarodonetsk and Lysichansk.
“It’s indescribably difficult there. And I’m grateful to those who resisted this attack,” he said.
The British Defense Department said in its daily intelligence report that if Russia succeeds in occupying those territories, the Kremlin will probably see it as a “key political achievement” that could be used to justify its attack on the Russian people.
As a sign of frustration over Western differences over the war, Ukrainian Deputy Prime Minister Olga Stefanishina said NATO had shown itself incapable of mounting a unified response.
“We need to talk clearly about the catastrophic consequences for the future of all of Europe if Ukraine is defeated,” he said on Facebook.
Zelensky said in a televised interview that he believed Russia would agree to talks if Ukraine could regain all the territory it had lost since the February 24 invasion.
Nevertheless, Zelensky rejected the idea of using force to reclaim all the territory Ukraine had lost to Russia since 2014, including the southern Crimean peninsula, which Moscow annexed that year.
“I do not believe that we can recapture all our territories militarily. If we decide to go that route, we will lose thousands of people,” he said.
Russia has said it is conducting a “special military operation” to liberate Ukraine militarily and is freeing nationalists who threaten Russian-speaking people there. Ukraine and the West say Russia’s claim is a false pretext for a war of aggression.
Thousands of people, including many civilians, have been killed and millions have fled their homes to safer parts of Ukraine or other countries.
Authorities in the city of Kharkiv say six civilians have been injured in the latest Russian shelling.
Guns and grain
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Schulz spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin in a call on Saturday, intensifying diplomatic efforts to find a solution to the conflict across Ukraine’s borders.
They asked him to lift a Russian blockade on the port of Odessa to allow him to export Ukrainian grain, France said. The Kremlin says Putin told them that Moscow was willing to discuss ways for Ukraine to resume shipments of grain from the Black Sea ports.
Ukraine is a major grain exporter, and restrictions on its exports could lead to food shortages in several countries, including Africa.
(This story was not edited by NDTV staff and was automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)