AGENCY – Ukraine ruled out a ceasefire or concessions to Moscow while Russia intensified an offensive in the eastern Donbas region and stopped providing gas to Finland, as Polish President Andrzej Duda prepared to address the Ukrainian parliament on Sunday.
After ending weeks of resistance by the last Ukrainian fighters in the strategic southeastern city of Mariupol, Russia is waging a major offensive in Luhansk, one of two provinces in Donbas. Russian-backed separatists already controlled swathes of territory in Luhansk and the neighbouring Donetsk province before the Feb. 24 invasion, but Moscow wants to seize the last remaining Ukrainian-held territory in Donbas.
“The situation in Donbas is extremely difficult,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said in his nightly address. The Russian army was trying to attack the cities of Sloviansk and Sievierodonetsk, but Ukrainian forces were holding off their advance, he said.
Zelenskiy adviser Mykhailo Podolyak ruled out agreeing to a ceasefire and said Kyiv would not accept any deal with Moscow that involved ceding territory. Making concessions would backfire on Ukraine because Russia would hit back harder after any break in fighting, he said “The war will not stop (after concessions). It will just be put on pause for some time,” Podolyak, Ukraine’s lead negotiator, told Reuters in an interview in the heavily guarded presidential office.
“They’ll start a new offensive, even more bloody and large-scale.” Recent calls for an immediate ceasefire have come from U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.
The end of fighting in Mariupol, the biggest city Russia has captured, gives Russian President Vladimir Putin a rare victory after a series of setbacks in nearly three months of combat. The last Ukrainian forces holed up Mariupol’s vast Azovstal steelworks surrendered on Friday, Russia said.-(Reuters)