Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy is set to address the European Council Monday as he pushes for more help for Ukraine and more pressure on Russia to end its invasion.
European Council President Charles Michel said in a letter ahead of a two-day session that Ukraine is “showing incredible courage and dignity in the face of the Russian aggression and atrocities.”
“One of our most pressing concerns is assisting the Ukrainian state, along with our international partners, with its liquidity needs,” Michel said. “We will also discuss how best to organize our support for Ukraine's reconstruction, as a major global effort will be required to rebuild the country.”
Michel said the meetings would include addressing high energy prices linked to the conflict and a need to “accelerate our energy transition” in order to phase out European dependence on Russian fossil fuels, as well as discussing ways to deal with issues of food security and price hikes.
In eastern Ukraine, Luhansk governor Serhiy Haidai said Monday fighting was intense in Sievierodonetsk, the last Ukrainian-controlled city in the region, with Russian forces reaching the outskirts of the city.
Zelenskyy said in a video address late Sunday that seizing the city “is a fundamental task for the occupiers” and that Ukraine will do all it can “to hold this advance.”
He said Russian attacks have damaged 90% of the buildings in Sievierodonetsk, knocking out telecommunication and destroying more than two-thirds of the city’s housing.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said told French TF1 television Sunday that Russia’s “unconditional priority is the liberation of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.” He said Russia views the areas as “independent states.”
Russia turned much of its attention to Donetsk and Luhansk, in the Donbas region, after redeploying many of its forces that had initially moved on the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, and faced fierce resistance in the initial stages of the invasion it launched in late February.
Zelenskyy made a rare visit outside Kyiv Sunday to meet Ukrainian forces in the eastern city of Kharkiv, a trip meant to highlight Ukraine’s success in driving Russia away from Ukraine’s second-largest city.
Zelenskyy was briefed on current operations in the city and presented state awards to the troops.
“I want to thank each of you for your service,” Zelenskyy said. “You are risking your life for all of us and our state. Thank you for defending Ukraine’s independence. Take care!”
But while also praising regional officials Sunday, Zelenskyy said Kharkiv’s security chief had been fired for “not working to defend the city from the first days of the full-scale war.”
Ukrainian regional military administrator Oleh Synyehubov said 31% of the Kharkiv region is still occupied by Russian forces.
Ukraine mounted a new counteroffensive Sunday to reclaim land around the southern port city of Kherson.
Kherson has served as a staging ground for Russian forces in southern Ukraine, the first major city to fall to Moscow’s forces as they swept north out of Crimea more than three months ago.
But Sunday, the Ukrainian military said on Twitter, “Hold on Kherson, we’re coming.”
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.