Ukraine is preparing for “big battles” against Moscow’s forces in the east of the country, officials in Kyiv said, as thousands of civilians flee in fear of an imminent Russian offensive.
Here’s your 10-point cheatsheet to this big story:
- Evacuations resumed on Saturday from Kramatorsk, in eastern Ukraine, where a missile strike killed 52 people at a railway station a day earlier, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson became the latest Western leader to visit Kyiv.
- Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky said Kyiv was readying for a Russian onslaught. “Sadly, in parallel we see the preparations for important battles, some people say decisive ones, in the east,” he said on Saturday at a press conference with visiting Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer. “We are ready to fight and to look in parallel to end this war through diplomacy.”
- Mr Zelensky’s adviser Mykhaylo Podolyak said Ukraine must beat back Russia in the eastern Donbas region, where Moscow controls two separatist territories, before a meeting can take place between the Ukrainian leader and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
- “Ukraine is ready for big battles. Ukraine must win them, including in the Donbas. And once that happens, Ukraine will have a more powerful negotiating position,” Mr Podolyak said on national television, as quoted by the Interfax news agency. “After that the presidents will meet. It could take two weeks, three.”
- Six weeks into Russia’s invasion, Moscow has shifted its focus to eastern and southern Ukraine after stiff resistance thwarted plans to swiftly capture Kyiv. With thousands killed in the fighting and more than 11 million fleeing their homes or the country, the Ukrainian president called on the West to follow Britain’s example on military aid.
- EU leaders were meeting with Zelensky in Kyiv on Friday as news emerged of the devastating attack on Kramatorsk’s station. The 52 victims included five children. US President Joe Biden accused Russia of being behind a “horrific atrocity” in Kramatorsk, and France condemned the strike as a “crime against humanity”.
- Moscow denied responsibility for the rocket attack, which also wounded 109 people, according to the latest official count. As Russian forces regroup in the east and south of Ukraine, local officials are urging residents to flee before it is too late.
- The mayor of eastern Lysychansk, Oleksandr Zaika, on Saturday asked residents to evacuate as soon as possible due to constant shelling by the Russian army. “It has become very difficult in the city, enemy shells are already flying,” Mr Zaika said in a video message.
- Russian troops appear intent on creating a long-sought land link between occupied Crimea and the Moscow-backed separatist territories of Donetsk and Lugansk in the Donbas region.
- Growing evidence of atrocities has also galvanised Ukraine’s allies in the EU, which has approved an embargo on Russian coal, frozen billions in assets of sanctioned individuals and ordered the closure of its ports to Russian vessels.
With inputs from AFP