Ukraine Braces For Russian ‘Storm’ In East In Run-Up To EU Meeting

Ukraine acknowledged on Tuesday difficulties in fighting in its east as Russian forces regrouped after stepping up pressure and making advances on two cities ahead of an EU summit this week expected to welcome Kyiv’s bid to join the bloc.The governor of the Luhansk region, scene of the heaviest Russian onslaughts in recent weeks, said Russian forces had launched a massive attack and gained some territory on Monday though it was relatively quiet overnight.”It’s a calm before the storm,” the governor, Serhiy Gaidai, said.Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy had predicted Russia would step up attacks ahead of the EU summit on Thursday and Friday.

“But we have our strong guys and girls there.”Gaidai said Russian forces controlled most of Sievierodonetsk, apart from the Azot chemical plant, where more than 500 civilians, including 38 children, have been sheltering for weeks.

The road connecting Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk to the city of Bakhmut was under constant shell fire, he said.Rodion Miroshnik, ambassador to Russia of the self-styled Luhansk People’s Republic, said its forces were “moving from the south towards Lysychansk” with firefights erupting in a number of towns.”The hours to come should bring considerable changes to the balance of forces in the area,” he said on Telegram.ATTRITIONAL PHASERussia sent tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb.

read more The war has entered a brutal attritional phase in recent weeks, with Russian forces concentrating on Ukrainian-controlled parts of the Donbas, which Russia claims on behalf of separatists.In Odesa, Ukraine’s biggest Black Sea port, which is blockaded by the Russian navy, a Russian missile destroyed a food warehouse on Monday, Ukraine’s military said.The United States and its European allies have provided weapons and financial assistance to Ukraine but avoided direct involvement in the conflict.British military intelligence said Ukraine forces claimed their first successful use of Western-donated Harpoon anti-ship missiles, destroying a tug delivering weapons and personnel to a Russian-held island in the Black Sea.

State Department spokesperson said they had been in touch with Russian authorities regarding any U.S.

Ukraine is one of the world’s main sources of grain and food oils, leading to fears of global shortages.Russia blames the food crisis on Western sanctions.The war has also disrupted energy markets, including Russian shipments of oil and gas to Europe, still the continent’s main source of energy and Russia’s primary income source.

Russia says EU sanctions prevented it from restoring pipeline equipment.Russia threatened to retaliate against EU member Lithuania for banning transport of coal, metals, construction materials and advanced technology to Kaliningrad, a Russian outpost on the Baltic Sea surrounded by EU territory.Russia’s foreign ministry summoned Lithuania’s top diplomat and demanded it reverse the “openly hostile” move or Russia “reserves the right to take actions to protect its national interests.” Lithuania said EU sanctions obliged it to enforce the ban.