Ukraine says fighting in the country’s eastern region of Donbas has reached its “maximum intensity,” urging the European Union to impose more sanctions on Russia.
“Enemy forces are storming the positions of our troops simultaneously in several directions. We have an extremely difficult and long stage of fighting ahead of us,” Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Ganna Malyar said on Thursday.
“The situation remains difficult and shows signs of further aggravation,” she was quoted by Reuters as telling a press briefing.
Russia’s President Vladimir Putin announced the operation in February in order to “demilitarize” the Donetsk and Lugansk regions in eastern Ukraine, which together form the Donbas. In 2014, the two regions declared themselves new republics, refusing to recognize Ukraine’s Western-backed government.
Ordering the operation, Putin said the mission was aimed at “defending people who for eight years were suffering persecution and genocide by the Kiev regime.”
Malyar’s comments came as the Russian military has “plotted a slow but steady course deeper” into the Donbas since withdrawing forces from Ukraine’s central and northern regions, Reuters added.
Zelensky attacks EU sanctioning machine
Also on Thursday, Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy lashed out at the European Union over its failure to wean itself off Russian energy.
The EU has so far slapped five rounds of sanctions against Russia. It, however, has been wary of imposing a full-scale set of bans on Russian energy imports out of its ongoing dependence on Moscow.
"How many more weeks will the European Union try to agree on a sixth package [of sanctions]?" Zelenskiy said.
A day earlier, the Ukrainian head of state complained that the world had so far failed to totally isolate the Russian banking system.