Russia and Ukraine fought pitched battles in the eastern region of Donetsk on Tuesday, as Kiev allies meeting in Paris pledged just over 1 billion euros ($1.44 billion Canadian) to help Ukrainians survive the frigid winter.
Russian forces are struggling to fully control Donetsk and Luhansk regions, two of four regions the Kremlin claims it annexed in a vote most countries have rejected as illegal.
Moscow also attacks Ukraine’s energy infrastructure with waves of missile and drone strikes, sometimes knocking out power for millions of civilians reeling from Europe’s deadliest conflict since World War II.
“They are bombing very badly, there is bombing, especially at night,” Valentina, 70, told Reuters as she fled the Ukrainian-held town of Bakhmut, which Moscow seeks to capture but is now largely in ruins due to shelling. Continuous bombing.
Valentina, who declined to give her last name, spoke in a truck driving to the relative safety of Ukrainian-controlled Pokrovsk.
She said: “The house was shaking, and every minute and second you expected it might collapse around you and that would be it. I couldn’t even sleep last week, so I decided to leave.”
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said about 70 countries and institutions had pledged aid to Paris to help preserve Ukraine’s water, food, energy, health and transport.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said that Ukraine needs at least 800 million euros.
“It’s a lot, but the price is less than the cost of a power outage,” Zelensky said during the meeting via video link.
Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland attended the conference in Paris. She said in a tweet that Canada “will provide $115 million in proceeds from our tariffs on Russian and Belarusian products to urgently rebuild Kyiv’s power grid.”
French President Emmanuel Macron, the host of the event, said there was an agreement to remove heavy weapons from Ukraine’s Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, and that talks were ongoing.
Denis Pushlin, the Russian official in charge of the Moscow-controlled part, told Russian media that more than half of the Donetsk People’s Republic had been “liberated”. The self-declared republic is a Russia-backed breakaway entity that has been fighting Ukrainian forces since 2014.
Reuters could not independently verify the news.
Russian artillery attacks continue
Heavy fighting in the region in recent weeks makes it unclear which parts of Donetsk are under Russian and Ukrainian control.
The governor of the region, Pavlo Kirilenko, said on his Telegram channel that three civilians were killed in the Donetsk region in the past 24 hours, while the governor of the southern region, Yaroslav Yanushevich, reported that three people were killed. Another 15 were killed and wounded in Russian artillery attacks. . in the past day.
He said Russian forces had bombed the Ukrainian-controlled part of the Kherson region 57 times.
Reuters could not independently verify the latest accounts from the battlefield.
Belarus, a close ally of Russia, has begun an early combat readiness inspection of its forces following an order from President Alexander Lukashenko, the defense ministry said on Tuesday.
It is the latest in a series of military operations, including an anti-terrorism exercise last week, that have raised fears that Russia could launch an attack on Ukraine from Belarusian soil in the coming months.
Russia rejects the peace proposal
On Monday, the G7 promised to “meet Ukraine’s urgent needs” after Zelensky called for the use of modern tanks, artillery and long-range weapons. The Ukrainian president also urged the G7 leaders in a virtual meeting to support his idea of holding a special global peace summit to bring peace to his country.
Russia on Tuesday rejected a peace proposal by Zelensky that would include the withdrawal of Russian forces and demanded Kiev accept new territorial “realities” that include Russia adding four Ukrainian regions as its “new subjects”.
US President Joe Biden told Zelensky on Sunday that Washington’s priority is to strengthen Ukraine’s air defences. The United States also shipped the first batch of energy equipment to Ukraine under an aid package agreed last month.
A senior US official said Russia was “deliberately trying to freeze Ukrainians to death as winter approaches”.
Moscow denies deliberately attacking civilians, but the war has displaced millions and killed thousands of non-combatants.
Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said that “unbearable circumstances” are likely to send another wave of Ukrainian refugees to Europe over the winter.
Sergei Kovalenko, head of YASNO, which supplies electricity to Kiev, said on his Facebook page that the lack of electricity in the Ukrainian capital was significant.
There are no ongoing peace talks to end the conflict, which Moscow describes as a “special military operation” against security threats posed by its neighbour. Ukraine and its Western allies call it an unjustified imperial land grab.
The Kremlin said on Tuesday that Ukraine should take into account the “facts” in the Ukraine conflict – including Russia’s seizure of territory from Ukraine – in order to establish peace between the two sides.