Russian forces captured territory along a frontline river in eastern Ukraine. President Volodymyr Zelensky predicted Moscow will escalate the attacks ahead of a summit of European leaders expected to welcome Kyiv’s bid to join the EU.
Moscow’s separatist henchmen claimed to have captured Toshkivka, a city on the largely Ukrainian-occupied western bank of the Siverskyi Donets River, south of Sievierodonetsk, which has become the main battlefield city in recent weeks.
Ukraine acknowledged Moscow’s success in Toshkivka and said the Russians were trying to gain a foothold there to make a breakthrough in the wider Ukrainian-owned pocket of the eastern Donbas region.
It also confirmed a Russian claim to have captured Metyolkine on the eastern outskirts of Sievierodonetsk.
“Clearly, we can expect an intensification of its hostile activities from Russia this week,” Zelensky said in a video address on Sunday night.
“We are preparing. We are ready.”
Moscow, for its part, denounced EU member Lithuania’s decision to ban the transport of some basic goods to Kaliningrad, a Russian outpost on the Baltic Sea surrounded by EU territory.
The Lithuanian ban, which occurred on Saturday, will block the shipment of coal, metals, building materials, and advanced technology to the outpost.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov called the move illegal and unprecedented and said Moscow would announce a response soon.
EU leaders are expected to bless Ukraine at a summit later this week to become an official candidate to join, a decision marked as a triumph in Kyiv.
While it would take years for Ukraine to join the EU, getting the bloc deep into the heart of the former Soviet Union would spark one of Europe’s greatest economic and social transformations since the Cold War.
Ukraine applied to join just four days after Russian President Vladimir Putin sent his troops across the border in February.
In the strongest move yet proposed by Kyiv to force a cultural break with Moscow, the Ukrainian parliament on Sunday passed bills that would prohibit the publication of books or the public broadcasting of music by citizens of post-Soviet Russia. Forbid.
The measures, which require Mr. Zelensky’s signature to become law, “are intended to help Ukrainian authors share high-quality content with the widest possible audience, which after the Russian invasion will not accept any Russian creative product on a physical level.” Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said.
The war has entered a difficult phase of attrition in recent weeks, with Russian forces concentrating their overwhelming artillery firepower on a Ukrainian-occupied area of the Donbas, which Moscow claims on behalf of separatists.
Much of the fighting has taken place along the Siverskyi Donets River.
Russia’s TASS news agency quoted Vitaly Kiselev, an aide to the interior minister of the self-declared Russian-backed separatist government of the Luhansk People’s Republic, as saying on Monday that the city of Toshkivka had been “liberated”.
The city is located on the west bank of the river, south of Sievierodonetsk’s sister city, Lysychansk, an important Ukrainian bastion.
Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai acknowledged that a Russian attack on Toshkivka had “a measure of success”.
He said that Russian troops tried to break through there and gain a foothold near the village of Ustinovka further north along the river.
The Russians brought there a huge amount of heavy equipment, including tanks.
He also confirmed Russia’s claim that it had captured Metyolkine in the eastern suburbs of Sievierodonetsk. “Unfortunately, we don’t have Metyolkine under control today,” he said.
Sievierodonetsk mayor Oleksander Stryuk said Russian forces had controlled about two-thirds of the city, including most residential areas, and Moscow continued throwing troops at the Ukrainians to take it completely over.