By JOHN LEICESTER and DAVID KEYTON
KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — The Russian military continued to crush Ukraine’s defenses on Monday, with fighting in eastern regions entering a “decisive” phase, as the consequences of the war for food supplies and fuel weighed more and more on the minds of the whole world.
In the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine, which in recent weeks has become the focal point of Moscow’s bid to impose its will on its neighbor, battles have raged for control of several villages, said the local governor.
Ukrainian Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said the Kremlin had ordered the Russian army to invade the entire Luhansk region by next Sunday. Currently, forces from Moscow control about 95% of the region.
Maliar said in televised remarks that “without exaggeration, decisive battles are taking place” in the region, where Ukrainian forces are desperately trying to avoid being surrounded.
“We have to understand that the enemy has an advantage both in terms of personnel and weapons, so the situation is extremely difficult. And right now these decisive battles are taking place at maximum intensity,” added Maliar.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy reiterated his call for more Western weapons to repel the Russian onslaught.
“We need your support, we need weapons, weapons that will have better capabilities than Russian weapons,” he said at a forum in Milan organized by geopolitical think tank ISPI. . He spoke via video link.
Zelenskyy added: “It’s a matter of life and death.”
The villages where the fighting is fierce are around Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, two towns in the Luhansk region that have not yet been captured by the Russians, according to Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai.
Russian shelling and airstrikes on the industrial outskirts of Sievierodonetsk have intensified, he said.
Haidai told The Associated Press on Monday that the situation in Sievierodonetsk was “very difficult”, with Ukrainian forces maintaining control of only one area – the Azot chemical plant, where a number of Ukrainian fighters, as well as 500 civilians take refuge. .
The Russians continue to deploy additional troops and equipment to the region, he said.
“It’s just hell out there. Everything is engulfed in fire, the shelling doesn’t even stop for an hour,” Haidai said in written comments.
Only a fraction of the 100,000 people who lived in Sievierodonetsk before the war remain in the city, without electricity, communications, food or medicine.
Even so, Haidai said, fierce Ukrainian resistance is preventing Moscow from deploying its resources to other parts of the country.
The British Ministry of Defense has noted that the war is not going all the way to Russia, despite its superior military capabilities.
Russian ground troops are “exhausted,” the Defense Ministry said in an intelligence report on Monday. He blamed weak air support for Russia’s difficulty in advancing faster on the ground.
Drivers around the world are rethinking their habits and personal finances amid soaring gasoline and diesel prices, fueled by Russia’s war in Ukraine as well as the global rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic. 19. Energy prices are a key driver of inflation which is rising worldwide and making the cost of living more expensive.
Senior European Union diplomats gathered in Luxembourg on Monday for talks focusing on Ukraine and food security.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell has called on Russia to lift its blockades of Ukrainian ports to help deliver the millions of tonnes of grain waiting to be exported.
“I hope – more than I hope, I’m sure – that the United Nations will eventually reach an agreement,” Borrell said. “It’s inconceivable, we can’t imagine that millions of tons of wheat remain blocked in Ukraine while in the rest of the world, people are suffering (from) hunger. It’s a real war crime… You can’t use people’s hunger as a weapon of war.
Financial aid for children displaced by war in Ukraine was expected to come an unlikely quarter later on Monday, when Russian journalist Dmitry Muratov sought to auction off his Nobel Peace Prize medal in New York.
Muratov received the gold medal in October 2021. He helped found the independent Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta and was the publication’s editor-in-chief when it closed in March amid the Kremlin’s crackdown on journalists and public dissent following Russia’s invasion of Russia. Ukraine.
Muratov had previously announced that he was donating the $500,000 cash prize that accompanied the award to charity. Proceeds will go directly to UNICEF in its efforts to help children displaced by war in Ukraine.
In other developments Monday:
– Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov says two American veterans who were captured by Russian forces while fighting alongside the Ukrainian military should be ‘held accountable for the crimes they committed’ . Speaking in an interview with NBC News, Peskov said the Americans – Alex Drueke and Andy Huynh, both from Alabama – are not protected by the Geneva Conventions as prisoners of war.
— A Russian governor said the Ukrainian shelling of a Russian village near the border with Ukraine injured one person. A power station was hit, leaving parts of the village without electricity, according to Alexander Bogomaz, governor of the Bryansk region.
– The Russian military said it hit an airfield in the Odessa region of southern Ukraine with a missile, destroying two Bayraktar drones and a drone control station. Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov said a high-precision Oniks missile hit an Artsyz airfield in the Odessa region. Earlier on Monday, Ukraine’s military said its air defense system deterred two airstrikes on the Odessa region, destroying incoming missiles. The conflicting reports could not be immediately reconciled.
– The head of the Russian-backed authorities in the Crimean peninsula, annexed to Ukraine in 2014, said Ukrainian forces hit three platforms operating in a Black Sea gas field. Sergei Aksyonov told Russian television that 12 people were on the hardest hit platform. Five of them were rescued with injuries and the others were missing. He added that there were no confirmed cases of people killed or injured on the other two platforms and that Crimea would not face power shortages.
– The death toll rose to three following a Russian strike on an oil storage facility on Saturday, according to Ukrainian regional governor Valentyn Reznichenko. He said on Monday that emergency crews were still trying to put out the flames at the facility in the Dnipropetrovsk region, about 320 kilometers southeast of Kyiv.
AP reporters around the world contributed to this story.
Follow AP coverage of the war at https://apnews.com/hub/russia-ukraine