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As Russia intensifies push for Donbas, Ukraine rules out ceasefire

World May 21, 2022 09:32PM ET
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5/5 © Reuters. A bus carrying service members of the Ukrainian armed forces, who surrendered at the besieged Azovstal steel mill, drives away under escort of the pro-Russian military in the course of the Ukraine-Russia conflict, in Mariupol, Ukraine May 20, 2022. REUTER 2/5

By Tom Balmforth, Pavel Polityuk and Terje Solsvik

KYIV/OSLO (Reuters) -Ukraine ruled out a ceasefire or concessions to Moscow on Saturday as Russia intensified an offensive in the eastern Donbas region and stopped providing gas to Finland.

After ending weeks of resistance by the last Ukrainian fighters in the strategic southeastern city of Mariupol, Russia is waging what appears to be a major offensive in Luhansk, one of two provinces in Donbas.

Russian-backed separatists already controlled swathes of territory in Luhansk and the neighbouring Donetsk province before the Feb. 24 invasion, but Moscow wants to seize the last remaining Ukrainian-held territory in Donbas.

"The situation in Donbas is extremely difficult," Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly address. The Russian army was trying to attack the cities of Sloviansk and Sievierodonetsk, but Ukrainian forces were holding off their advance, he said.

Earlier, Zelenskiy told local television that although the fighting would be bloody, the end would come only through diplomacy and that the Russian occupation of Ukrainian territory would be temporary.

Zelenskiy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak ruled out agreeing to a ceasefire and said Kyiv would not accept any deal with Moscow that involved ceding territory. He said making concessions would backfire on Ukraine because Russia would hit back harder after any break in fighting.

"The war will not stop (after concessions). It will just be put on pause for some time," Podolyak, Ukraine's lead negotiator, told Reuters in an interview in the heavily guarded presidential office. "They'll start a new offensive, even more bloody and large-scale."

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

The end of fighting in Mariupol, the biggest city Russia has captured, could be crucial to its ambitions in Donbas. It gives Russian President Vladimir Putin a rare victory after a series of setbacks in nearly three months of combat.

The last Ukrainian forces holed up Mariupol's vast Azovstal steelworks surrendered on Friday, Russia said.

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

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

Russian forces were using aircraft, artillery, tanks, rockets, mortars and missiles along the entire front line to attack civilian structures and residential areas, the Ukrainians said in a Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) post. At least seven people were killed in the Donetsk region, they said.

Russian troops destroyed a bridge on the Siverskiy Donets River between Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk, Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said. There was fighting on the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk from morning through the night, he said on the Telegram messaging app.

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 DISPUTE

Russia's state gas company, Gazprom (MCX:GAZP), said it halted gas exports to Finland, which refused Moscow's demands to pay in roubles for Russian gas after Western countries imposed sanctions over the invasion.

Finland and Sweden applied this week to join the NATO military alliance.

Finnish state-owned gas wholesaler Gasum, the Finnish government and individual gas consuming companies in Finland have said they were prepared for a shutdown of Russian flows.

Most European supply contracts are denominated in euros or dollars. Last month, Moscow cut off gas to Bulgaria and Poland after they refused to comply with the new terms.

Western nations also have stepped up weapons supplies to Ukraine. On Saturday, Kyiv got another huge boost when U.S. President Joe Biden signed a bill to provide nearly $40 billion in military, economic and humanitarian aid.

Moscow says Western sanctions, along with arms deliveries for Kyiv, amount to a "proxy war" by the United States and its allies.

The Russian military said it had destroyed a major consignment of Western arms in Ukraine's Zhytomyr region, west of Kyiv, using sea-launched Kalibr cruise missiles. Reuters could not independently verify the report.

Thousands of people in Ukraine have been killed in the war that has displaced millions and shattered cities.

Zelenskiy said he stressed the importance of more sanctions on Russia and unblocking Ukrainian ports in a call with Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi on Saturday.

Polish President Andrzej Duda was in Ukraine preparing to address the Ukrainian parliament on Sunday. Duda, who also met with Zelenskiy in Kyiv last month, is the first head of state to address parliament in person since the invasion, his office said.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivered a May 3 address to lawmakers via videolink.

Ukraine and Russia: What you need to know right nowGraphic on Russian invasionhttps://graphics.reuters.com/UKRAINE-CRISIS/zdpxokdxzvx/FACTBOX-Last defenders of Mariupol: what is Ukraine's Azov Regiment? ANALYSIS-Putin takes Mariupol, but wider Donbas victory slipping from reachFACTBOX-The big items in Washington's $40 billion Ukraine aid package

As Russia intensifies push for Donbas, Ukraine rules out ceasefire
 

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Comments (6)
Roger Miller
Roger Miller May 23, 2022 7:02PM ET
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Should actually read that the Democrats and Biden administration ruled out a ceasefire.  But they do thank the Ukrainians for their sacrifice in order that the Democrats may have retribution against Putin, not to mention a nice distraction from the economic and social destruction caused by their poor pandemic policies.
jason xx
jason xx May 21, 2022 11:14AM ET
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If Ukraine is doing so well and has a chance to win then how is it they could never once launch a relief assault towards the steel plant?
Robert Cox
Robert Cox May 21, 2022 11:14AM ET
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They would lose more lives than they would save.
Brad Albright
Brad Albright May 21, 2022 11:14AM ET
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Strategic choices have to be made. Successfully turning Russia away from the capital Kyev, driving Russia out of Khirkov, and defending other area are all strategic successes, even if they have lost the steel plant for now.
Klaus Mittwoch
Klaus Mittwoch May 21, 2022 10:57AM ET
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Germany and Italy are going to pay in Russians rubbles for gas. They should be removed from NATO and join Putin and Russia with love. Like in beginning of WWII they are in one alliance. Only US can help Europe, again.
jason xx
jason xx May 21, 2022 10:57AM ET
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no no no Germany and Russia are arch enemies and we want them on our side believe me. They are not combat ready but they have the economy to re arm quickly.
Richard Moore
Richard Moore May 21, 2022 10:57AM ET
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No not the U.S. The Europeans wanna fight then they do the fighting. Outside of fighting then-Yes. Well help...
Bull Power
Bull Power May 21, 2022 7:50AM ET
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Remember kids - this is why you DO NOT give up your nuclear weapons in exchange for a worthless piece of paper signed by USA, Russia, UK and others claiming they'll protect you so you don't need nuclear weapons. "1. The Russian Federation, the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and the United States of America reaffirm their commitment to Ukraine, in accordance with the principles of the Final Act of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine." -  Budapest Memorandum 1994, a worthless piece of paper. If Ukraine had nukes Russia wouldn't attack, end of story.
jason xx
jason xx May 21, 2022 7:50AM ET
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When u are right u are right
Brad Albright
Brad Albright May 21, 2022 7:50AM ET
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US and UK held to the agreement. Russia did not.
gab nea
gab nea May 21, 2022 7:10AM ET
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make putin pay, he has over 80 billion ill gained assets.
Lye S K
Lye S K May 21, 2022 1:27AM ET
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Zelenskiy asking for war damage compensation is akin to leaders of  war damaged  middle east countries asking for compensation from their aggressors.
Bull Power
Bull Power May 21, 2022 1:27AM ET
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He is not the aggressor while every middle east country excluding Israel absolutely is, so no, what would be akin to that is if for example Russia demanded compensation from Ukraine for war damages, when will you people learn - the stronger country isn't always the aggressor and the weaker isn't always the depressed, it's extremely often that the western fear of war is being taken as weakness and used to perform acts of extreme aggression by countries who assume they will not get whipped, however as they punch much above their weight they get tossed like ragdolls on slightest retaliation. Now if people were just smart enough to understand that, USA probably wouldn't worry about just rescuing Ukraine and taking Russia down for good but in the PC era it appears people enjoy supporting the weaker regardless of any logic as they lack any sense of justice other than 'Hurr Durr more dead vs less dead lol'
 
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