Ukraine rules out a truce in the war as fighting intensifies in Donbass

Ukraine ruled out a ceasefire or concessions to Moscow, while Russia stepped up an offensive in the eastern Donbass region and halted gas supplies to Finland as Polish President Andrzej Duda prepared to address Ukraine’s parliament on Sunday.

After the end of weeks of resistance by the last Ukrainian militants in the strategic southeastern city of Mariupol, Russia is launching a major offensive in Luhansk, one of two provinces in Donbass.

Russian-backed separatists already controlled tracts of land in Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk province before the February 24 invasion, but Moscow wants to seize the last remaining Ukrainian territory in Donbass.

“The situation in Donbass is extremely difficult,” said Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy in his late-night address. The Russian army tried to attack the cities of Sloviansk and Sievierodonetsk, but Ukrainian forces held back their advance, he said.

Ukrainian soldiers do not support their comrades near the front lines in eastern Ukraine's Donbass region, May 21, 2022.
Ukrainian soldiers support their comrades in eastern Ukraine’s Donbass region on May 21, 2022.
AFP via Getty Images

Zelensky’s adviser Mykhailo Podolyak ruled out agreeing to a ceasefire and said Kyiv will not accept any deal with Moscow that included a cession of territory. Concessions would backfire on Ukraine because Russia would hit back harder after each lull in fighting, he said.

“The war (after concessions) will not stop. It will only pause for some time,” Ukraine’s chief negotiator Podolyak told Reuters in an interview in the president’s tightly guarded office. “They will launch a new offensive, even bloodier and bigger.”

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

The end of fighting in Mariupol, the largest city Russia has captured, gives Russian President Vladimir Putin a rare victory after a series of setbacks in nearly three months of fighting.

The last of the Ukrainian forces entrenched in Mariupol’s huge Azovstal Steel Plant surrendered on Friday, Russia said.

Full control of Mariupol gives Russia command of a land route connecting the Crimea peninsula, which Moscow captured in 2014, with mainland Russia and pro-Russian separatist-held areas of eastern Ukraine.

Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Russian army tried to attack two cities but Ukrainian forces held them back.
Volodymyr Zelenskyy said the Russian army tried to attack two cities but Ukrainian forces held them back.
Getty Images

Ukrainian forces in the separatist-held regions of Luhansk and Donetsk said Saturday they had repelled nine attacks in the previous 24 hours, destroying five tanks and 10 other armored vehicles.

Russian forces used planes, artillery, tanks, rockets, mortars and missiles all along the front line to attack civilian structures and residential areas, Ukrainians said in a Facebook post. At least seven people were killed in the Donetsk region, it said.

The British Ministry of Defense announced on Sunday that Russia would use its BMP-T “Terminator” armored support vehicles in the offensive. However, with only 10 available for a unit that has already suffered heavy casualties in the failed attack on Kyiv, the ministry said they are “unlikely to have a significant impact”.

Ukrainian soldiers stand on their armored personnel carrier and are spotted in the Izyum district of the Kharkiv region.
Ukrainian soldiers stand on their armored personnel carrier and are spotted in the Izyum district of the Kharkiv region.
AFP via Getty Images

Russian troops destroyed a bridge over the Seversky Donets River between Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, Lugansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said. Fighting went on from dawn to dusk on the outskirts of Seyerodonetsk, he said on the messaging app Telegram.

Sievierodonetsk and its twin Lysychansk across the Siverskiy Donets River form the eastern part of a Ukrainian-held pocket that Russia has been trying to overrun since mid-April after failing to capture Kyiv.

GAS DISPUTES

Russia’s state-owned gas company Gazprom said it has halted gas exports to Finland, which rejected Moscow’s demands to pay for Russian gas in rubles after western countries imposed sanctions over the invasion.

Finland and Sweden applied to join the NATO military alliance on Wednesday.

Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler Gasum, the Finnish government and individual gas-consuming companies in Finland have said they are prepared for a Russian power cut.

Two women stand in front of their bombed-out house, which was destroyed by Russians, in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on May 20, 2022.
Two women stand in front of their bombed-out house, which was destroyed by Russians, in Bakhmut, Ukraine, on May 20, 2022.
Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Most European supply contracts are denominated in euros or dollars. Last month Moscow shut off gas to Bulgaria and Poland after refusing to comply with the new conditions.

Western nations have also increased arms sales to Ukraine. On Saturday, Kyiv received another huge boost when US President Joe Biden signed legislation providing nearly $40 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid.

Moscow says Western sanctions along with arms supplies to Kyiv amount to a “proxy war” by the United States and its allies. Thousands of people in Ukraine have been killed in the war that has displaced millions and destroyed cities.

Zelenskyi said he stressed the importance of further sanctions against Russia and the opening of Ukrainian ports in a conversation with Draghi on Saturday.

Duda, who met with Zelenskyy in Kyiv last month, is the first foreign leader to address parliament in person since the invasion, his office said.

https://nypost.com/2022/05/22/ukraine-rules-out-ceasefire-in-war-as-fighting-intensifies-in-donbas/ Ukraine rules out a truce in the war as fighting intensifies in Donbass

JACLYN DIAZ

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