Ukraine braces for increased Russian advances in east ahead of EU meeting

The summit is expected to welcome Kyiv's bid to join the bloc



Image: Reuters
Image: Reuters

By Reuters

Published: Tue 21 Jun 2022, 11:11 AM

Ukraine acknowledged on Tuesday difficulties in fighting in its east as Russian forces regrouped after stepping up pressure and making advances on two cities. This comes ahead of an EU summit this week expected to welcome Kyiv's bid to join the bloc.

The governor of the Luhansk region, the 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. He was defiant in a late Monday address to the nation, though referring to "difficult" fighting in Luhansk for Sievierodonetsk and its sister city, Lysychansk.

"We are defending Lysychansk, Sievierodonetsk, this whole area, the most difficult one. We have the most difficult fighting there," he said. "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.

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