Russian missiles, artillery and drones hammered targets in eastern and southern Ukraine, Ukraine’s General Staff said on Monday as global economic powers pledged to beef up Kyiv’s military capabilities with a focus on air defences.
The Group of Seven (G-7) promised to “meet Ukraine’s urgent requirements” after President Volodymyr Zelensky appealed to the virtual G-7 meeting for modern tanks, artillery firepower and long-range weapons against Russia’s devastating invasion.
He also urged the G-7 to help Kyiv obtain an extra 2 billion cubic metres of natural gas in light of Ukraine’s dire energy shortages as millions languish without power in sub-zero cold after further Russian air strikes on critical infrastructure.
Separately, European Union foreign ministers agreed to put another 2 billion euros (S$2.9 billion) into a fund that has been used to pay for military support for Ukraine, after it was largely depleted during almost 10 months of war. More top-ups may be possible at a later stage.
There are no peace talks and no end in sight to the conflict, the biggest in Europe since World War II, and which Moscow describes as a “special military operation” against security threats posed by its neighbour. Ukraine and its Western allies call it an unprovoked, imperialist land grab.
Russia does not yet see a “constructive” approach from the US on the Ukraine conflict, RIA news agency quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Vershinin as saying on Monday.
U.S. President Joe Biden told Mr Zelensky on Sunday that Washington was prioritising efforts to boost Ukraine’s air defences, the White House said.
Mr Zelensky said he had thanked Mr Biden in the call for the “unprecedented defence and financial” help the US has provided.
British defence minister Ben Wallace said on Monday he would be “open-minded” about supplying Ukraine with longer-range missiles to target launch sites for Russian drones that have hit infrastructure if Russia carried on targeting civilian areas.
Ukraine’s Black Sea port of Odesa on Monday resumed operations suspended after Russia used Iranian-made drones on Saturday to hit two energy facilities. Power is slowly being restored to some 1.5 million people, but the situation remains difficult, national grid operator Ukrenergo said on Monday.
In its regular daytime report on the military situation, Ukraine’s General Staff said its forces had repelled Russian assaults on four settlements in the eastern Donetsk region and on eight settlements in the adjacent Luhansk region.
The regions are two of four in eastern and southern Ukraine that Moscow claims to have annexed after “referendums” branded illegal by Kyiv.
Later in its evening update, the General Staff said Russian artillery had hammered nearly 20 front-line settlements around the eastern city of Bakhmut, which Moscow seeks to capture but which is now largely in ruins due to incessant bombardment.
Ukraine has said Russian forces are suffering huge losses in brutal dug-in warfare on the eastern front.
A senior US military official said on Monday Russia was burning through so much ammunition that it was turning to decades-old munitions with high failure rates.
The fighting is also exacting a serious toll on Ukrainian troops.
“There are days when there are many heavily wounded: Four or five amputations at once,” Dr Oleksii, a 35-year-old who declined to give his full name, told Reuters at a military hospital in eastern Ukraine.
At least two people were killed and five wounded in Kherson on Monday after what regional governor Yaroslav Yanushevych said was “massive shelling” by Russian forces of the southern city, which was liberated by Ukrainian forces last month.
Reuters could not independently verify the latest battlefield accounts.
The war overall has not gone well for Russia. Its forces were beaten back from the Ukrainian capital Kyiv early on, and have suffered major battlefield reverses in the east and south of Ukraine since the summer.
Against that backdrop, the Kremlin said on Monday President Vladimir Putin would not hold his annual, marathon televised year-end news conference this month, an event he has used to showcase his command of issues and stamina.
Mr Zelensky said other areas experiencing “very difficult” conditions with power supplies included the capital Kyiv and Kyiv region and four regions in western Ukraine and Dnipropetrovsk region in the centre of the country.
United Nations (UN) aid chief Martin Griffiths arrived in Ukraine on Monday to see “the impact of the humanitarian response and new challenges that have arisen as infrastructure damage mounts amid freezing winter temperatures”, his office said.
“Unliveable conditions” are likely to send another wave of hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian refugees into Europe over the winter, Mr Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, told Reuters after returning from a trip to Ukraine.
Mr Egeland said he feared the crisis in Europe would deepen and overshadow crises in other parts of the world.
Around 18 million people or 40 per cent of Ukraine’s population is dependent on aid, the UN said. Another 7.8 million have left the country for other parts of Europe.
The EU foreign ministers also discussed though did not reach agreement on a ninth package of sanctions on Russia over the invasion, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters, though he hoped a deal would be clinched later this week.
US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told CBS’s 60 Minutes that Washington’s support for Ukraine’s military and economy - more than US$50 billion (S$68 billion) - would continue “for as long as it takes”.