Zelenskiy says outcome of battle for Donbas will determine course of the war; Russia calls on Ukrainian forces in Sievierodonetsk to lay down arms
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Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the outcome of the battle for the Donbas region will determine the course of the war, adding that Ukraine’s forces are suffering “painful losses” in Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk. The battle for Luhansk’s Sievierodonetsk is now the biggest fight in Ukraine as its defenders try to repel a fierce Russian onslaught in the twin eastern cities.
Russia has told Ukrainian forces holed up in Sievierodonetsk’s Azot chemical plant to lay down their arms by early Wednesday. Fighters should “stop their senseless resistance and lay down arms” from 8am Moscow time (5am GMT), Mikhail Mizintsev, head of Russia’s national defence management centre told the Interfax news agency.
Russia said it would set up a humanitarian corridor on Wednesday for trapped civilians seeking to flee intense fighting in Sievierodonetsk. Serhiy Haidai, governor of the Luhansk region, said about 500 civilians, 40 of them children, were sheltering from heavy Russian attacks in the Azot chemical plant.
Zelenskiy repeated his call for the west to step up the provision of heavy weapons to Ukraine. Ukraine’s deputy defence minister Hanna Malyar said the country had received only 10% of what it asked for and there was no path to victory without the aid: “No matter how hard Ukraine tries, no matter how professional our army is, without the help of western partners we will not be able to win this war”. Zelenskiy added that Ukraine does not have enough anti-missile systems to shoot down Russian projectiles targeting its cities. “Our country does not have enough of them … there can be no justification in delays in providing them.”
Nato must build out “even higher readiness” and strengthen its weapons capabilities along its eastern border, the military alliance’s chief said on Tuesday ahead of a summit in Madrid at the end of the month. Secretary general Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance needed a “more robust and combat-ready forward presence and an even higher readiness and more pre-positioned equipment and supplies.”
Leaders of seven European Nato members pledged support for applications by Sweden and Finland to join the alliance. “My message on Swedish and Finnish membership is that I strongly welcome that. It’s an historic decision. It will strengthen them, it will strengthen us,” Stoltenberg told reporters after a meeting at The Hague on Tuesday.
US president Joe Biden said temporary silos will be built along the border with Ukraine, including in Poland, in a bid to help export more grain. Referring to the 20 million tons of grain locked in Ukraine, Biden told a union convention in Philadelphia: “It can’t get out through the Black Sea because it’ll get blown out of the water … So we’re going to build silos, temporary silos, on the borders of Ukraine, including in Poland.”
Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has reportedly been moved to maximum-security prison. Navalny was moved to the IK-6 prison in the village of Melekhovo in the Vladimir region, Russian news agencies reported, citing Sergei Yazhan, chairman of the regional Public Monitoring Commission.
Russia banned British journalists, including correspondents from the Guardian, and defence industry figures from entering the country, calling it a response to western sanctions and pressure on its state-run media outlets abroad.
Pope Francis said Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine was “perhaps somehow provoked” as he recalled a conversation in the run-up to the war in which he was warned that Nato was “barking at the gates of Russia”.
Russian president Vladimir Putin probably still wants to capture much if not all of Ukraine but has had to narrow his tactical objectives in war, the US undersecretary of defence has said. “I still think he has designs on a significant portion of Ukraine, if not the whole country. That said, I do not think he can achieve those objectives,” Colin Kahl said while speaking at an event hosted by the centre for new American security.