Fierce fighting erupted in eastern Ukraine on Wednesday, with Russian troops on the verge of besieging an important industrial city, as President Volodymyr Zelensky issued a bitter rebuke from the West for not helping Kiev win the war.
Sergei Gade, Lugansk’s regional governor, described fighting outside the industrial city of Severodonetsk as a key military goal for Russia, saying it was “very difficult” for Russian troops to fire mortars from the outskirts of the city.
“The coming week will be decisive,” Gaddy states in a video posted on Telegram, adding that he believes Russia’s goal is to “occupy the Lugansk region at any cost.”
“There’s been a lot of shelling,” he added.
Earlier in the day, speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmitry Kuleba likened the war in Donbass to an epic war in World War II and said his country needed more than one launch rocket system to “badly” match Russian firepower.
In Kiev, Zelensky echoed that appeal.
“We need the help of our partners – above all, weapons for Ukraine. Full support, without exception, without limits, is enough to win,” Zelensky said in his daily address to the nation.
And he called on the international community to pay more attention to Russia’s interests and less to Ukraine.
Ukraine’s president has recently blasted other similar statements by New York Times editorials and influential Westerners that Ukraine may have to leave some territory to end the conflict.
“We must do everything in our power to make the world a strong habit of considering Ukraine, so that the interests of the Ukrainians do not go beyond the interests of those who rush to another meeting with the dictator,” Zelensky said. .
– ‘Clear Blackmail’ –
Russia’s February 24 attack on its pro-Western neighbor has caused a global shockwave, especially in Africa over fears of food shortages.
Moscow has blamed international sanctions imposed after the attack, while Westerners have said the deficit is largely due to Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko has stated that “a comprehensive approach is needed to address the food crisis, including the lifting of sanctions on Russian exports and financial transactions.”
But Kuleba urged the West not to bow down.
“It’s obvious blackmail. You can’t find a better example of blackmail in international relations,” Kuleba told Davos.
Kuleba has condemned the Western military alliance, NATO, for doing “literally nothing” to stop Russia.
– ‘Extremely heavy shells’ –
Moscow’s army has been planning a slow but steady path in the eastern Donbass region of Ukraine since withdrawing troops from central and northern Ukraine.
In the eastern town of Soledar, a salt production center in Ukraine, Natalia Timofeenko was shaking the ground just as she was leaving her bunker.
“I just go out to see people. I know there’s gunfire going on but I go,” said the 47-year-old after breaking a portion of a salt mine in a thunderstorm, where he worked with most of his friends and neighbors.
Phantom frontline towns like Soledar are being hit by Russian artillery as they sit on the side of the main road leading out of the besieged Severodonetsk and its sister city of Lysichansk.
The Ukrainian presidency says 12 people have been killed in “extremely heavy shelling and attacks” in neighboring Donetsk, which is also part of the Donbass.
At a sign that the rest of the country is at risk, Russian cruise missiles hit the main southern railway station in the city of Zaporizhia, killing one and damaging dozens of homes, the presidency added.
– ‘It’s just war’ –
Russia has also sought to consolidate its hold on parts of southern Ukraine.
On Wednesday, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree simplifying the process of obtaining a Russian passport for residents of the southern Ukrainian region of Kherson and the partially occupied Zaporizhiya region, which are under the full control of Russian troops.
Kyiv called the plan a “blatant violation” of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Moscow-backed officials are pushing for Russia’s formal annexation.
“People are terrified,” Alexander Loginov, 47, a Kherson trolleybus driver, told AFP from a cabin during a press trip hosted by Russia’s Defense Ministry.
Everyday life is characterized by uncertainty, especially due to the payment of wages “Ukrainian banks are closing down,” he said. “Honestly, it’s just war.”
Ukrainian authorities say, on humanitarian grounds, about 200 bodies have been found in the basement of a dilapidated building in the port city of Mariupol, which recently collapsed in Moscow after a devastating siege.
“It is impossible to stay in the area because of the smell of dead bodies,” Ukrainian ombudsman Ludmila Denisova wrote in a telegram on Wednesday. “The occupiers have turned the whole of Mariupol into a cemetery.”
(Except for the title, this story was not edited by NDTV staff and was published from a syndicated feed.)