Smoke rises after a military strike on a compound of Sievierodonetsk’s Azot Chemical Plant in Lysychansk. Reuters
The fight for the twin cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk in Ukraine's Luhansk region is "entering a sort of fearsome climax", said Oleksiy Arestovych, adviser to Zelensky. Russia is seeking to capture both Luhansk and Donetsk, which make up the Donbas region - the nation's industrial heartland.
On the diplomatic front, European leaders on Thursday will formally set Ukraine on the long road to EU membership at a summit in Brussels. Though mainly symbolic, the move will help lift morale after four-months of bloody conflict that has killed thousands, displaced millions and destroyed cities.
"We must free our land and achieve victory, but more quickly, a lot more quickly," Zelensky said in a video address released early Thursday, reiterating Ukrainian demands for larger and faster weapons.
Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky speaks in Kyiv. File photo
"There were massive air and artillery strikes in Donbas. The occupier's goal here is unchanged, they want to destroy the entire Donbas step-by-step," he said.
"This is why we again and again emphasize the acceleration of arm deliveries to Ukraine. What is quickly needed is parity on the battlefield in order to halt this diabolical armada and push it beyond Ukraine's borders."
The fierce war of attrition in the Donbas is at its most critical in Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk.
Hundreds of civilians are trapped in a chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk, with Ukraine and Russia disputing who controls the bombed-out city.
Moscow says Ukrainian forces in Sievierodonetsk, scene of the heaviest recent fighting, are surrounded and trapped. It ordered them last week to surrender or die.
A local woman looks at an apartment building damaged by a Russian military strike in Vuhledar, Donetsk. Reuters
But Luhansk's regional governor, Serhiy Gaidai, told Ukrainian Television on Wednesday that "battles are continuing" and that "Russian forces do not have full control."
In Lysychansk, Tass news agency cited Russian-backed separatists saying Ukrainians in the city were now surrounded and cut off from supplies after a road connecting the city to the town Sieviersk was taken.
Reuters was unable to immediately confirm the report.
Arestovych said Russian forces in both cities were conscripts of varying levels of training after Ukraine inflicted heavy losses on Russian forces. Reuters could not verify his comments on Russian losses.
"It's like two boxers grappling with each other in the 18th round of a bout and barely able to move things forward. This operation started on 14th April and has been going on for nearly 80 days," he said in an online video post.
Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24 in what the Kremlin calls a "special operation" to ensure Russian security and denazify Ukraine. Ukraine and the West call this a baseless pretext for a war of choice that has raised fears of wider conflict in Europe.
Russia has long opposed closer links between Ukraine, a former Soviet state, and Western clubs like the European Union (EU) and the NATO military alliance.
Zelensky said he had spoken to 11 EU leaders on Wednesday about Ukraine's candidacy and will make more calls on Thursday. He said earlier he believed all 27 EU countries would support Ukraine's candidate status.
A fireman participates in extinguishing a fire at a Gypsum Manufactory plant in Bakhmut, Donbas, Ukraine. AFP
"We deserve it," Zelensky told crowds in Amsterdam via video link.
Diplomats say it will take Ukraine a decade or more to meet the criteria for joining the EU. But EU leaders say the bloc must make a gesture that recognises Ukraine's sacrifice.
The war in Ukraine has had a massive impact on the global economy and European security, driving up gas, oil and food prices, pushing the EU to reduce its heavy reliance on Russian energy and prompting Finland and Sweden to seek NATO membership.
The EU will temporarily shift back to coal to cope with dwindling Russian gas flows without derailing longer-term climate goals, an EU official said on Wednesday, as a tight gas market and soaring prices set off a race for alternative fuels.
Leaders from the Group of Seven and NATO will seek to increase pressure on Russia over its war in Ukraine at meetings next week, U.S. administration officials said.
The eastern Donetsk region has faced the brunt of Russia's offensive since its assault on Kyiv failed weeks into the invasion launched on February 24.
Energoatom, operator of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in the south of the country, said on Saturday that parts of the facility had been "seriously damaged" by military strikes and one of its reactors was forced to shut down.
Incessant shelling has left Ukrainian forces defending ruins in Sievierodonetsk, but their refusal to withdraw is stalling a massive Russian offensive across the Donbas.
China is Saudi Arabia's top oil customer, and both sides appear keen to expand their relationship at a time of economic turmoil and geopolitical realignment.
Sheikh Mohammed says that despite the predictions of the WTO of a 3.5 per cent decline in international trade this year, the UAE achieved a growth of 19 per cent in the first nine months of the year. He also expects the country’s foreign trade to grow to Dhs2.2 trillion by end of 2022.
The Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior arrested the errant driver that caused the accident on one of the main roads, according to what was published by Kuwaiti local media.