Ukraine repulses attacks in east as Russia presses to control Mariupol


LVIV, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukrainian forces have repelled several Russian attacks in the east of the country, British intelligence said on Monday, while President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said that Thousands of Russian soldiers are massing for a new offensive.

Russian troops are also pushing to establish control of the southern port city of Mariupol, which is the key between the Russian-controlled west and east.

“Tens of thousands of people died, but even so, the Russians did not stop their offensive,” Zelensky told South Korea’s parliament via video link.

Reuters could not verify the accuracy of his estimates.

The Russian invasion – Europe’s worst conflict since the Balkan wars in the 1990s – has left a devastating trail of death, drawing condemnation from the West and raising concerns about Putin’s broader ambitions.

About a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people have been forced from their homes, cities are in ruins, and thousands have been killed or injured – many of them civilians.

Austrian leader Karl Nehamer is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow on Monday and has called for an end to the conflict. It will be Putin’s first face-to-face talks with EU leaders since Russia’s invasion began on February 24.

At least for now, Russian troops have given up trying to seize the capital, Kyiv, but they are redoubling their efforts in eastern Ukraine. The British Ministry of Defence said that Russian shelling continued in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

But the Ukrainian army said in its regular intelligence bulletins that it had repelled several attacks and destroyed Russian tanks, vehicles and artillery equipment.

Strong blasts shook cities in the south and east early Monday, and air raid sirens sounded across Ukraine.

Zelensky continued his campaign to garner international support and unite his compatriots, warning that next week will be important.

“The Russian army is going to have a bigger operation in the eastern part of our state. They may use more missiles against us, maybe even more aerial bombs. But we are preparing for their operation. We will answer,” he said in a late-night video said address.

Speaking to South Korea’s parliament, he said Russia was concentrating tens of thousands of soldiers on its next offensive. He asked Seoul to provide any military aid it could.

Since the Russian invasion, Zelensky has called on Western powers to provide more defense help and punish Moscow with tougher sanctions, including a ban on its energy exports.

Zelensky also said that Mariupol had been destroyed. On Sunday, Reuters reporters saw several Russian tanks heading towards the highway in the direction of the city.

The Ukrainian Armed Forces General Staff said the Russians were likely to try to disrupt supply lines and attack transport infrastructure.

The Russian Defense Ministry said high-precision missiles destroyed the headquarters of the Ukrainian Dnieper battalion in the town of Zvonetsky.

A Russian sea-launched missile on Sunday destroyed an S-300 air defense missile system supplied to Ukraine by a European country, the ministry said in a subsequent statement. It said their systems were hidden in a hangar on the outskirts of Dnieper in central Ukraine.

Reuters could not confirm the reports.

Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehamer said he would meet Putin in Moscow on Monday.

“We are militarily neutral, but (have) a clear position on Russia’s war of aggression against #Ukraine,” Nehamer tweeted. “It must stop! It needs humanitarian corridors, ceasefires and A full investigation of war crimes.”

Rising civilian casualties have sparked widespread international condemnation and new sanctions.

Dozens of civilian bodies were found in the area, said Ludmila Zabaluk, head of the Dmytriv village in northern Kyiv.

“More than 50 people were killed. They shot at close range. There was a car with a 17-year-old burned to death, nothing but bones. A woman had half her head blown off. A little further away, a man lay on his They were burned alive near the car,” she said.

Reuters could not confirm the reports.

Moscow denies Ukrainian and Western allegations of war crimes. It has repeatedly denied targeting civilians in so-called “special operations” to demilitarize and “denazify” its southern neighbor. Ukraine and Western countries see this as a baseless casus belli.

Speaking at a meeting of European ministers in Luxembourg on Monday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Berbock said Berlin had seen “a lot of signs” of war crimes in Ukraine.

Societe Generale becomes the latest company to pull out of Russia, agreeing to sell its stake in Rosbank and the Russian bank’s insurance subsidiary to Interros, a company linked to billionaire Vladimir Potanin Capital.

The Russian incursion has triggered a flurry of financial sanctions from the US, Europe and the UK, prompting Western companies to sell their assets in Russia.

Societe Generale is under increasing pressure to cut ties with Russia and end its more than 15-year investment in Russian banks.

EU executives are drafting proposals to impose an oil embargo on Russia, several EU ministers said on Monday, although a deal to ban Russian crude has yet to be reached.

The World Bank forecast on Sunday that the war will cause Ukraine’s economic output to plummet by 45 percent this year, with half of its businesses closing and most food exports disrupted by Russia’s naval blockade, disrupting economic activity in many regions.

The bank forecasts that Russia’s gross domestic product will contract by 11.2% this year due to Western sanctions.

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