Russian forces edged toward the centre of the eastern Ukrainian on Monday, while President Volodymyr Zelensky prepared to appeal to EU leaders at an emergency summit where a ban on Russian oil imports is on the agenda.
Zelensky is expected to press EU officials at the summit “to kill Russian exports” as he seeks to crank up international pressure on Moscow.
Member states are searching for a compromise on a sixth round of sanctions, which has been delayed by resistance from within the bloc, namely from Hungary.
Meanwhile, Russia forces continued their push in the eastern Donbas region, upping the pressure on the twin cities of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk.
Since failing to capture Kyiv in the war’s early stages, Russia’s army has narrowed its focus, hammering cities with relentless artillery and missile barrages as it seeks to consolidate its control.
The situation in Severodonetsk, just across the Donets river from Lysychansk, was “very difficult”, the local Lugansk regional governor Sergiy Gaiday said in a statement on social media.
“The Russians are advancing into the middle of Severodonetsk”, while the fighting continued, Gaiday said.
While Russia concentrated its efforts in the east, Ukrainian forces pushed back over the weekend in the southern region of Kherson, the country’s military leadership said.
At the same time, two people were injured following an explosion in the Moscow-controlled city of Melitopol in southeastern Ukraine, with local pro-Kremlin authorities said pinning the blame on Kyiv.
Newly appointed French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna also made the journey to the Ukrainian capital Monday for talks with Zelensky.
The highest-ranking French official to visit Kyiv since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, Colonna also visited the town of Bucha, where Russian troops have been accused of committing war crimes against the civilian population.
In the eastern Donbas region, Moscow’s forces were making slow progress towards taking the city of Severodonetsk.
Zelensky, in his daily address Sunday, described a scene of devastation in Severodonetsk.
“All critical infrastructure has already been destroyed… More than two-thirds of the city’s housing stock has been completely destroyed,” he said.