KYIV: Ukrainian forces battled on Saturday to block Russian military advances into the eastern region of Donbas, a provincial governor said, as Ukraine urged its allies to send it more weapons.
Signalling that the Kremlin was in no mood for compromise, President Vladimir Putin said sanctions against Russia for the invasion it launched in February risked causing “catastrophic” energy price rises.
His top diplomat, Sergei Lavrov, clashed with his Western counterparts at a G20 meeting in Indonesia, where they urged Russia to allow Ukraine to ship its blockaded grain out to an increasingly hungry world.
Russia’s envoy to Britain, meanwhile, offered little prospect of a pullback from parts of Ukraine under Russian control.
Ambassador Andrei Kelin told Reuters that Russian troops would capture the rest of Donbas in eastern Ukraine and were unlikely to withdraw from land across the southern coast.
Ukraine would eventually have to strike a peace deal or “continue slipping down this hill” to ruin, he said.
On the front lines in the east, Ukrainian officials reported heavy Russian shelling of towns and villages as Russian forces attacked from several directions.
“Russians are firing along the entire front line,” the governor of the Luhansk region, Serhiy Gaidai, said on the Telegram message system.
“The enemy is trying to advance from the settlements of the Luhansk region to the first villages of Donetsk region.”
Russia says it wants to wrest control of the entire Donbas, the eastern industrial heartland made up of Luhansk and Donetsk provinces, on behalf of Moscow-backed separatists in two self-proclaimed people’s republics.
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After taking the city of Lysychansk last Sunday and effectively cementing control of Luhansk, Russia has made clear it is planning to capture parts of neighbouring region.
Gaidai said Russian forces had not paused after their recent advances in the east. “They attack and bombard our lands with the same intensity as before.”
The Russians have also seized a big chunk of territory across Ukraine’s south.
In the Russian-occupied parts of the Kherson and Zaporizhzhia regions in the south, Ukraine’s deputy prime minister urged residents to evacuate before Ukrainian forces launch a counter-offensive.