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

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KYIV/BUZOVA, Ukraine, April 10 (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.

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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.

Satellite images released by private U.S. firm Maxar dated April 8 showed armoured vehicles and trucks in a military convoy moving south toward Donbas through a town some 100 kilometres (62 miles) east of Kharkiv.

A handout satellite image made available by Maxar Technologies shows the northern end of a convoy of armored military vehicles that extends for at least eight miles moving south through the Ukrainian town of Velykyi Burluk, Ukraine, 08 April 2022 (issued 10 April 2022). Russian troops entered Ukraine on 24 February resulting in fighting and destruction in the country and triggering a series of severe economic sanctions on Russia by Western countries.
EPA-EFE/MAXAR TECHNOLOGIES / HANDOUT

Some cities in the east are under heavy shelling with tens of thousands of people unable to evacuate.

Visits in recent days by top EU officials, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nehammer and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who brought pledges of more military and financial aid and new sanctions, showed a return to some degree of normality for the capital. 

NINE TRAINS

But in the east, calls by Ukrainian officials for civilians to flee gained more urgency after a missile strike hit a train station on Friday in the city of Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region that was full of people trying to leave.

Ukrainian officials said more than 50 people were killed.

Russia has denied responsibility, saying the missiles used in the attack were only used by Ukraine’s military. The United States says it believes Russian forces were responsible.

Reuters was unable to verify the details of attack.

Residents of the region of Luhansk would have nine trains on Sunday to get out on, the region’s governor, Serhiy Gaidai, wrote on the Telegram message service.

In a Palm Sunday homily, Pope Francis called for an Easter truce in Ukraine, and in an apparent reference to Russia, questioned the value of planting a victory flag “on a heap of rubble”.

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.

On the battlefield, the Ukrainian defence ministry said on Sunday its armed forces used the British-made Starstreak MANPAD missiles for the first time and destroyed a Russian unmanned aerial vehicle Orlan-10.

The Russian defence ministry said it had destroyed the launching pads for Ukrainian S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems at the Chuhuiv aerodrome and near the village of Starobogdanovka in the Mykolaiv region in southern Ukraine.

Reuters was unable to verify those reports.

(Reporting by Reuters bureausWriting by Michael Perry and Tomasz JanowskiEditing by Robert Birsel and Frances Kerry)

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