Monday, May 23, 2022

Kyiv keeps pressure on West to do more as battle looms in Ukraine's east

Kyiv keeps pressure on West to do more as battle looms in Ukraine's east

KYIV (Reuters) - Ukraine said on Sunday it was seeking another round of European Union sanctions against Moscow and more military aid from its allies as it braces for a major Russian offensive in the east of the country.

Russia has failed to take any major cities since it launched its invasion on Feb. 24 but Ukraine says it has been gathering its forces in the east for a major assault and has urged people to flee.

President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Twitter he had spoken on the phone with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz about additional sanctions as well as more defence and financial support for his country. Zelenskiy also discussed with Ukrainian officials Kyiv's proposals for a new package of EU sanctions, his office said.

In a video address late on Saturday, Zelenskiy renewed his appeal for a total ban on Russian energy products and more weapons for Ukraine.

The EU on Friday banned Russian coal imports among other products, but has yet to touch oil and gas imports from Russia.

Mounting civilian casualties have triggered widespread international condemnation and new sanctions, in particular over hundreds of deaths in the town of Bucha, to the northwest of Kyiv that until just over a week ago was occupied by Russian forces.

A grave with at least two civilian bodies has been found in Buzova village near Kyiv, a Ukrainian official said, the latest such reported discovery since the Russian withdrawal from areas north of the capital.

Taras Didych, head of the Dmytrivka community that includes Buzova, earlier spoke of dozens of bodies when talking to Ukrainian television.

"Right now, as we are speaking, we are digging out two bodies of villagers, who were killed," Didych told Reuters by telephone.

"There are other people who we cannot find. They could be in different places, but this doesn't lessen the pain of the loss of loved ones."

Reuters was not immediately able to confirm the report.

Moscow has rejected accusations of war crimes by Ukraine and Western countries. It has denied targeting civilians in what it calls a "special operation" to demilitarise and "denazify" its southern neighbour. Ukraine and Western nations have dismissed this as a baseless pretext for war.

Russia is seeking to establish a land corridor from Crimea, which it annexed in 2014, and the eastern Donbas region that is partly held by Moscow-backed separatists, Britain's defence ministry has said.