Russian forces captured territory along a frontline river in eastern Ukraine yesterday and President Volodymyr Zelensky predicted Moscow would escalate attacks ahead of a summit of European leaders expected to welcome Kyiv’s bid to join the EU.
Moscow’s separatist proxies claimed to have captured Toshkivka, a town on the mostly Ukrainian-held western bank of the Siverskyi Donets river, south of Sievierodonetsk, which has become the main battlefield city in recent weeks.
Ukraine acknowledged that Moscow had success in Toshkivka and said the Russians were trying to gain a foothold there to make a breakthrough into the wider, Ukrainian-held pocket of the eastern Donbas region. It also confirmed a Russian claim to have captured on Sievierodonetsk’s eastern outskirts.
“Obviously, this week we should expect from Russia an intensification of its hostile activities,” Zelenskiy said in a Sunday nightly video address. “We are preparing. We are ready.”
In Odesa, Ukraine’s biggest Black Sea port, a food warehouse was destroyed in a Russian missile attack yesterday, the Ukrainian military said. No civilians were reported killed.
The city has come under sporadic bombardment since the start of the war and is blockaded by the Russian navy, while each side accuses the other of laying mines in the sea.
The Operational Command “South” said Russian forces fired 14 missiles at southern Ukraine during a three-hour barrage. The Russian military did not comment on the reports.
The Russian-installed leader of Crimea, which Russia annexed from Ukraine in 2014, said Kyiv had struck Black Sea drilling platforms owned by a Crimean oil company. Three people were wounded, and a search was under way for seven workers, he said on the Telegram messaging app.
Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency said the platforms were located 71km from Odesa.
European Union leaders at a summit on Thursday and Friday are expected to give their blessing to Ukraine becoming an official candidate to join, a decision that will be marked as a triumph in Kyiv.
“I think that’s very likely it would happen,” US President Joe Biden told reporters when asked if he felt Ukraine would become an EU member.
Though it would take years for Ukraine to join, for the bloc to reach deep into the heart of the former Soviet Union would bring about one of Europe’s biggest economic and social transformations since the Cold War. Ukraine applied for membership just four days after Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his troops across the border in February.
Moscow meanwhile threatened to retaliate against EU member Lithuania for banning transport of basic goods to Kaliningrad, a Russian outpost on the Baltic Sea surrounded by EU territory. The Lithuanian ban, which took effect on Saturday, blocks shipments of coal, metals, construction materials and advanced technology to the outpost.
Russia’s foreign ministry summoned Lithuania’s top diplomat and demanded Vilnius reverse the “openly hostile” move immediately, or else Russia “reserves the right to take actions to protect its national interests.” Lithuania said it was required to enforce the ban under sanctions imposed by the EU.
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