Ukraine’s armed forces braced for a new Russian offensive on Monday as powerful explosions rocked cities in the south and east, while Austria’s leader planned to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and call for an end to the conflict.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky continued his tireless campaign to build international support and rally his compatriots, warning that the coming week would be an important and tense one.
“Russia will be even more afraid. She will be afraid of losing. She will fear that the truth will have to be acknowledged,” Zelensky said in a late-night video address.
“Russian troops will move on to even larger operations in the east of our state. They may use even more missiles against us, even more air bombs. But we are preparing for their actions. We will respond.”
Air raid sirens were heard in Ukraine early Monday.
“It is likely that the enemy, in order to disrupt the supply of goods to the places of hostilities, will continue to attack transport infrastructure facilities in Ukraine in order to destroy or disable them,” the general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces said.
Russian forces continued their offensive to establish full control over the southern city of Mariupol, seeking to storm an iron and steel plant and seaport, it added.
Russia could also carry out provocative actions in the Transnistria region of the Republic of Moldova to accuse Ukraine of aggression against a neighboring state, the general staff said, without providing evidence.
Karl Nehammer of Austria to meet Putin in Moscow
Serhiy Gaidai, the governor of the Lugansk region in eastern Ukraine, said infrastructure, including food stores, had been targeted by Russian “informants”, also without providing evidence. Reuters was unable to confirm the claims.
Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer said he would meet Putin on Monday in Moscow for the Russian leader’s first face-to-face meeting with a European Union counterpart since the Russian invasion began on February 24.
“We are militarily neutral, but (have) a clear position on the Russian war of aggression against #Ukraine,” Nehammer wrote of Austria. On twitter. “It must stop! It needs humanitarian corridors, a ceasefire and a full investigation of war crimes.”
Russia’s invasion has forced about a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people from their homes, turned cities into rubble and killed or injured thousands.
It has failed to take any major cities, but Ukraine says Moscow has been massing its forces in the east for a major offensive and has urged people to flee.
A series of powerful explosions were heard in the northeastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and in Mykolaiv, near the Black Sea in the southern part of the country, Ukrainian media reported on Sunday.
Earlier, the missiles destroyed the Dnipro city airport, said Valentyn Reznichenko, governor of the central Dnipropetrovsk region.
The Russian Defense Ministry said high-precision missiles had destroyed the headquarters of Ukraine’s Dnipro battalion in the town of Zvonetsky.
Reuters could not immediately confirm the reports.
Since Russia invaded, Zelensky has called on Western powers to provide more defense aid and punish Moscow with tougher sanctions, including embargoes on its energy exports.
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told ABC News: “We’re going to give Ukraine the weapons it needs to push back the Russians and prevent them from taking more cities and towns.”
Zelensky said he had confidence in his own military, but “unfortunately I don’t have confidence that we’re going to get everything we need” from the United States.
“They have to supply weapons to Ukraine as if they were defending themselves and their own people,” Zelensky said in an interview broadcast on CBS. 60 minutes. “They need to understand this. If they don’t speed up, it will be very difficult for us to withstand this pressure.”
Zelensky earlier said on Twitter that he had spoken by phone with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz about additional sanctions, as well as more defense and financial support for his country. Zelensky also discussed kyiv’s proposals for a new EU sanctions package with Ukrainian officials, his office said.
The EU on Friday banned imports of Russian coal among other products, but has yet to touch oil and gas imports from Russia.
Civilian deaths trigger more sanctions
The rise in civilian casualties has prompted widespread international condemnation and new sanctions.
Ludmila Zabaluk, head of the department of Dmytriv village, north of the capital kyiv, said dozens of bodies of civilians were found in the area.
“There were more than 50 dead. They were shot up close. There is a car where they burned a 17-year-old boy, only bones remained. One woman had half her head blown off. near the car hers was burned alive.”
Reuters could not immediately confirm the reports.
Moscow has rejected accusations of war crimes by Ukraine and Western countries. It has repeatedly denied targeting civilians in what it calls a “special operation” to demilitarize and “denazify” its southern neighbor. Ukraine and Western nations have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for war.
The World Bank forecast on Sunday that the war would cause Ukraine’s economic output to collapse by 45 percent this year, with half its businesses closed, grain exports mostly cut off by Russia’s naval blockade and the destruction that would make economic activity impossible in many areas.
The bank forecast that Russia’s GDP would contract 11.2 percent this year due to harsh Western sanctions.