KYIV, May 22 (Reuters) – Ukraine ruled out a ceasefire or any territorial concessions to Moscow as Russia stepped up its attack in the eastern and southern parts of the country, pounding the Donbas and Mykolaiv regions with air strikes and artillery fire.
Kyiv’s stance has become increasingly uncompromising in recent weeks as Russia experienced military setbacks while Ukrainian officials grew worried they might be pressured to sacrifice land for a peace deal.
“The war must end with the complete restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Andriy Yermak, Ukraine’s presidential chief of staff said in a Twitter post on Sunday.
Polish President Andrzej Duda offered Warsaw’s backing, telling lawmakers in Kyiv on Sunday that the international community had to demand Russia’s complete withdrawal and that sacrificing any territory would be a “huge blow” to the entire West.
“Worrying voices have appeared, saying that Ukraine should give in to (President Vladimir) Putin’s demands,” Duda said, the first foreign leader to address the Ukrainian parliament in person since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. read more
“Only Ukraine has the right to decide about its future,” he said.
Speaking to the same parliamentary session, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy renewed a plea for stronger economic sanctions against Moscow.
“Half-measures should not be used when aggression should be stopped,” he said.
Shortly after both finished speaking, an air raid siren was heard in the capital, a reminder that the war raged on even if its front lines are now hundreds of kilometres away.
Zelenskiy said at a news conference with Duda that 50 to 100 Ukrainians are dying every day on the war’s eastern front in what appeared to be a reference to military casualties.
Russia is waging a major offensive in Luhansk, one of two provinces in Donbas, after ending weeks of resistance by the last Ukrainian fighters in the strategic southeastern port of Mariupol.
The heaviest fighting focused around the twin cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, interior ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko told Ukrainian television on Sunday.
The cities form the eastern part of a Ukrainian-held pocket that Russia has been trying to overrun since mid-April after failing to capture Kyiv and shifting its focus to the east and south of the country.
Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of Luhansk, said in a local television interview that Russia was using “scorched-earth” tactics in the region.
“They are wiping Sievierodonetsk from the face of the earth,” he said.
Russian shelling and “heavy fighting” near Sievierodonetsk has continued, but the invading forces failed to secure the nearby village Oleksandrivka, a Ukrainian military statement said.
Russia’s defence ministry said on Sunday its forces pummelled Ukrainian command centres, troops and ammunition depots in Donbas and the Mykolaiv region in the south with air strikes and artillery.