Fierce battles continued to rage in eastern Ukraine with Russian troops poised to encircle a key industrial city, prompting a fierce rebuke from western Volodymyr Zelenskiy for not doing enough to help kyiv to win the war.
As the Ukrainian military reported on Thursday that 40 towns in the Donbass region were being shelled by Russia, Luhansk Governor Sergiy Gaiday described the fighting outside Sievierodonetsk, a key military target for Russia, as “very difficult”, claiming that Russian troops were bombarding the city from the outskirts with mortars.
“The coming week will be decisive,” Gaiday said in a video posted on Telegram, adding that he believed Russia’s goal was to “capture the Luhansk region at all costs.”
“There is a colossal amount of shelling,” he added.
Having failed to seize Ukraine’s capital or its second city, Kharkiv, after its invasion in February, Russia is trying to take full control of Donbass, made up of two eastern provinces claimed by Moscow on behalf of separatists. .
Russia has deployed thousands of troops to the region, attacking from three sides in an attempt to encircle Ukrainian forces standing in Sievierodonetsk and its twin, Lysychansk. Their fall would leave the entire Luhansk province under Russian control, a key Kremlin war objective.
“The occupiers shelled more than 40 towns in the Donetsk and Luhansk region, destroying or damaging 47 civilian sites, including 38 houses and a school. As a result of this shelling, five civilians died and 12 were injured,” the Joint Task Force of the Ukrainian Armed Forces posted on Facebook.
The statement said 10 enemy attacks were repelled, four tanks and four drones destroyed and 62 “enemy soldiers” were killed.
Gaiday said Lysychansk police were collecting the bodies of those killed in order to bury them in mass graves. Some 150 people were buried in a mass grave in a district of Lysychansk, he added.
Families of those buried in mass graves will be able to reburial after the war, and police are issuing documents allowing Ukrainians to obtain death certificates for their relatives, Gaiday said.
Zelenskiy said in his late-night address on Wednesday that Russian troops “far outnumbered us” in parts of the east and echoed calls from his Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at the World Economic Forum in Davos for more weapons of the west.
“We need help from our partners – above all, weapons for Ukraine. Full help, without exceptions, without limits, enough to win,” Zelenskiy said in his daily address to the nation.
And he called on the international community to pay too much attention to Russia’s interests and too little to those of Ukraine.
Ukraine’s president slammed a recent New York Times op-ed and other similar statements by influential Western figures suggesting Ukraine may have to sacrifice territory to end the conflict.
“We must do everything in our power to make the world accustomed to taking Ukraine into consideration, so that the interests of Ukrainians are not overtaken by the interests of those who are rushing to a new meeting with the dictator,” Zelenskiy said. .
British Foreign Secretary Liz Truss is expected to appeal on Thursday for additional military aid and sanctions to help Ukraine, during a trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“Russia’s aggression cannot be appeased. It has to be faced with force,” Truss is expected to say, noting the concessions made to Putin before the launch of operations in Georgia, Crimea and the Donbass.
Russia’s invasion of its pro-Western neighbor has sent global shockwaves, the latest being fears of food shortages, particularly in Africa.
Moscow blamed international sanctions imposed after the invasion, while the West says the shortage is mainly due to Russia’s blockade of Ukrainian ports.
“Solving the food problem requires a comprehensive approach, including the removal of sanctions that have been imposed on Russian exports and financial transactions,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko said.
But Kuleba urged delegates in Davos in Switzerland not to back down. “It is clearly blackmail. You couldn’t find a better example of blackmail in international relations,” Kuleba told the WEF in Davos. Kuleba also criticized the Western NATO military alliance for “literally doing nothing” to stop Russia.
In other developments:
In a sign that the rest of the country remains in danger, Russian cruise missiles hit the main southern rail hub of Zaporizhzhia, killing one person and damaging dozens of homes, the presidency added.
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday signed a decree simplifying the procedure for obtaining Russian passports for residents of the southern Ukrainian regions of Kherson, under full control of Russian troops, and partially occupied Zaporizhzhia. kyiv said the plan was a “flagrant violation” of Ukraine’s sovereignty.
Russia’s parliament on Wednesday scrapped the upper age limit for contract service in the army, stressing the need to replace lost troops. In a late-night video address, Zelenskiy, commenting on Russia’s new enlistment rules, said: “(They) don’t have enough young men anymore, but they still have the will to fight. It will still take time to crush this will.