Pounded by the Russian offensive in the East, Ukraine rules out concessions

  • Ukraine rules out ceasefire and concessions
  • Russia launches assault on Luhansk and Mykolaiv
  • Ukraine must decide its future, says Polish president

KYIV, May 22 (Reuters) – Ukraine has ruled out a ceasefire or any territorial concessions to Moscow as Russia steps up its attack in the east and south of the country, pounding the Donbass and Mykolaiv regions with air strikes and artillery fire.

Kyiv’s stance has grown increasingly intransigent in recent weeks as Russia has suffered military setbacks amid fears Ukrainian officials will be forced to sacrifice land for a peace deal.

“The war must end with the full restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Ukrainian President’s chief of staff Andriy Yermak said in a Twitter post on Sunday.

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Polish President Andrzej Duda offered Warsaw’s support, telling lawmakers in Kyiv on Sunday that the international community must demand Russia’s complete withdrawal and that sacrificing everything would be a “crushing blow” for the entire West.

“Disturbing voices have emerged saying that Ukraine should give in to (President Vladimir) Putin’s demands,” said Duda, the first foreign leader to address Ukraine’s parliament in person since Russia’s Feb. 24 invasion. Read more

“Only Ukraine has the right to decide its future,” he said.

Addressing the same parliamentary session, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy renewed his call for stronger economic sanctions against Moscow.

“Half measures should not be used when aggression needs to be stopped,” he said.

Shortly after the two finished talking, an air raid siren was heard in the capital, a reminder that war was raging even though its front lines were now hundreds of miles away.

Russia is currently waging a major offensive in Luhansk, one of the two Donbass provinces, after ending weeks of resistance by the last remaining Ukrainian fighters in the strategic southeastern port of Mariupol.

The heaviest fighting has been concentrated around the twin towns of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, Interior Ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko told Ukrainian television on Sunday.

The towns form the eastern part of a Ukrainian-held pocket that Russia has been trying to invade since mid-April after failing to capture kyiv and shifting its focus to the east and south of the country.

The Russian Defense Ministry said on Sunday that its forces bombarded Ukrainian command centers, troops and ammunition depots in Donbass and the Mykolaiv region in the south with airstrikes and artillery. Read more

Reuters was unable to independently verify these battlefield reports.

Russian-backed separatists already controlled parts of Lugansk and neighboring Donetsk before the invasion, but Moscow wants to grab the remaining Ukrainian territory in the region.

NO CONCESSIONS, NO CEASEFIRE

Ukraine’s chief negotiator, Zelenskiy’s adviser Mykhailo Podolyak, ruled out any territorial concessions and rejected calls for an immediate ceasefire, saying this meant Russian troops would stay in occupied territories, which kyiv could not accept.

“The (Russian) forces must leave the country and after that the resumption of the peace process will be possible,” Podolyak said in an interview with Reuters on Saturday, calling the calls for an immediate ceasefire “very strange”. .

Concessions would backfire because Russia would use the break in fighting to come back stronger, he said. Read more

Recent calls for an immediate ceasefire have come from US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi. Read more

The end of the fighting in Mariupol, the largest city captured by Russia, gave Putin a rare victory after a string of setbacks in nearly three months of fighting.

The last Ukrainian forces locked in the vast Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol have surrendered, the Russian Defense Ministry announced on Friday. Although Ukraine has not confirmed a full withdrawal, the commander of one of the plant’s units said in a video that the Ukrainian military command had ordered the troops to withdraw in order to preserve their lives. Read more

Full control of Mariupol gives Russia control of a land route linking the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow seized in 2014, with mainland Russia and parts of eastern Ukraine held by separatists pro-Russian.

RUSSIA CUTS GAS TO FINLAND

Russian gas company Gazprom (GAZP.MM) said on Saturday it had halted gas exports to Finland, which has refused Moscow’s demands to pay Russian gas in rubles after Western countries imposed sanctions for the invasion. Read more

Finland said it was prepared for the cut in Russian flows. It asked on Wednesday along with Sweden to join the NATO military alliance, although this is facing resistance from NATO member Turkey. Read more

Most European gas supply contracts are denominated in euros or dollars and last month Moscow cut off Bulgaria and Poland after rejecting the new terms.

Along with the sanctions, Western countries have stepped up arms deliveries to Ukraine. On Saturday, Kyiv received another huge boost when US President Joe Biden signed a bill providing nearly $40 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid. Read more

Moscow said Western sanctions and arms deliveries to kyiv amounted to a “proxy war” by Washington and its allies.

Putin calls the invasion a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of radical anti-Russian nationalists. Ukraine and its allies have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for war, which has killed thousands in Ukraine, displaced millions and destroyed cities.

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Reporting by Natalia Zinets, Max Hunder, Tom Balmforth in Kyiv, David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Lidia Kelly in Melbourne and Reuters bureaus Writing by Richard Pullin, Doina Chiacu and Tomasz Janowski Editing by Frances Kerry and Frank Jack Daniel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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