Kyiv rules out ceasefire as Russia steps up offensive in eastern Ukraine

  • Ukraine rules out ceasefire and concessions
  • Russia launches attack in Luhansk
  • Polish President of Ukraine addresses Parliament on Sunday

Kyiv (Reuters) – Ukraine has ruled out a ceasefire or concessions to Moscow as Russia ramped up its offensive in the eastern Donbass region, halting gas deliveries to Finland in its latest offensive in response to Western sanctions and its growing international isolation.

Polish President Andrzej Duda, who met President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv last month, returned to address the Verkhovna Rada on Sunday, the first foreign leader to do so in person.

After ending weeks of resistance by the last Ukrainian fighters in the strategic southeastern port of Mariupol, Russia is launching a major offensive in Luhansk, one of two provinces in the Donbass.

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Russian-backed separatists were already in control of swathes of Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk provinces before Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24, but Moscow wants to seize the last remaining Ukrainian-controlled territory in the region.

On the front line in Donetsk, Russian forces have been trying to break through Ukrainian defenses to reach the administrative border of the Luhansk region, while continuing north with heavy shelling of Severodonetsk and Lysechansk, Ukraine’s General Staff said in its daily update Sunday.

Severodonetsk and its twin Lysishansk across the Seversky Donets River form the eastern part of a Ukrainian-controlled enclave that Russia has been trying to bypass since mid-April after failing to capture Kyiv and shifting its focus to the east and south of the country.

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The British Ministry of Defense said on Sunday that Russia would deploy BMP-T “Terminator” tank support vehicles in that attack. With only 10 available for a unit that had already incurred heavy losses in the failed attempt on Kyiv, the ministry said it was “unlikely to have a significant impact”.

Ukraine’s chief negotiator, speaking to Reuters on Saturday, ruled out a ceasefire or any agreement with Moscow that includes ceding territory. Mr Zelensky’s adviser, Mikhailo Podolak, said concessions were counterproductive because Russia would respond more forcefully after any pause in fighting. Read more

“The war will not stop. It will stop for a while,” Podolyak said in an interview in a heavily guarded presidential office. “They will start a new attack, which will be more bloody and extensive.”

The latest calls for an immediate ceasefire came from US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Read more

The end of the fighting in Mariupol, the largest city captured by Russia, gave Russian President Vladimir Putin a rare victory after a series of setbacks in nearly three months of fighting.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Friday that the last Ukrainian forces that were holed up in the huge Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol have surrendered. Read more

Full control of Mariupol gives Russia command of a land route linking Crimea, which Moscow captured in 2014, with mainland Russia and parts of eastern Ukraine under the control of pro-Russian separatists.

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gas dispute

Russian state gas company Gazprom (GAZP.MM) On Saturday, it said it had halted gas exports to Finland, which rejected Moscow’s demands to pay rubles for Russian gas after Western countries imposed sanctions over the invasion. Read more

Finland said it was ready to stop Russian flows. On Wednesday, it applied with its Scandinavian neighbor Sweden to join the NATO military alliance, although this is facing resistance from NATO member Turkey. Read more

Most European supply contracts are made in euros or dollars. Last month, Moscow cut off gas to Bulgaria and Poland after they rejected the new terms.

Western countries have also boosted arms supplies to Ukraine. On Saturday, Kyiv got another big boost when US President Joe Biden signed a bill to provide nearly $40 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid. Read more

Moscow says Western sanctions, along with arms shipments to Kyiv, amount to a “proxy war” by the United States and its allies.

Putin describes the invasion as a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of anti-Russian ultra-nationalists. Ukraine and its allies dismissed this as a baseless excuse for a war that has killed thousands of people in Ukraine, displaced millions and destroyed cities.

Zelensky said he stressed the importance of more sanctions against Russia and the opening of Ukrainian ports in a phone call with Italy’s Draghi on Saturday.

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Additional reporting by Natalia Zenets, Max Hunder and Tom Palmforth in Kyiv, David Younggreen in Ottawa, Lydia Kelly in Melbourne, Reuters offices.

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Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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