Ukraine has rejected regional concessions, as Russia has stepped up its attacks

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KYIV – Ukraine has denied a ceasefire or any regional concessions to Russia, and Poland’s president has said any damage to Ukrainian territory would be a “huge blow” to the entire West because he warned against appeasing Russian President Vladimir Putin.

On Monday morning an air raid siren sounded across Ukraine, sounding daily alarms before the expected attack by Russian forces in the east and south of the country.

Russia has stepped up its offensive in the Donbass and Mykolaiv regions with airstrikes and artillery fire, which Ukraine has described as a “scorched earth” strategy to win control of the eastern front.

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“The war must end with the full restoration of Ukraine’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Andrei Yarmak, Ukraine’s chief of staff, said in a Twitter post on Sunday.

Polish President Andrzej Duda has backed Warsaw, telling lawmakers in Kiev on Sunday that the international community must demand Russia’s complete withdrawal and that sacrificing any territory would be a “huge blow” to the entire West.

Duda, the first foreign leader to address the Ukrainian parliament in private since Russia’s February 24 attack, said “there are alarming voices that Ukraine must accept Putin’s demands.”

“Only Ukraine has the right to decide its future.”

Ukraine and Poland have agreed to work on a shared railway company to establish a joint border customs control and facilitate the movement of people and increase exports to Ukraine.

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Most Ukrainian refugees have entered the European Union through the border points of Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. Poland has granted more than 3 million Ukrainians the right to live and work and to demand social security.

Ukraine, one of the world’s leading wheat and corn exporters, failed to export about 25 million tons of grain, leading to rising global food prices.

Application for stronger approval

Speaking at the same parliamentary session, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky renewed an appeal for strong economic sanctions against Moscow.

“Half measures should not be used to stop aggression,” he said.

Zelensky told a news conference with Dudar that 50 to 100 Ukrainians were dying every day on the eastern front, which appeared to be a reference to military casualties.

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Russia is launching a major offensive in Luhansk, one of the two provinces of Donbass, after weeks of resistance by the last Ukrainian fighters in the strategic southeastern port of Mariupol.

Vadim Denisenko, an adviser to the Interior Ministry, told Ukrainian television on Sunday that the fierce fighting was centered around the twin cities of Siviarodonetsk and Lisichansk.

The cities form the eastern part of the Ukrainian-controlled pocket that Russia has been trying to occupy since mid-April, when it shifted its focus to the south and east after abandoning its efforts to capture Kyiv.

Yugansk Governor Serie Gaia said in a local television interview that Russia was using “scorched earth” tactics.

“They are removing Sieverodonetsk from the face of the earth,” he said.

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Ukraine’s military statement said Russian shelling and “heavy fighting” continued near Siviarodonetsk, but that the invading forces had failed to secure the nearby village of Oleksandrivka.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that its forces had fired airstrikes and artillery at Donbass in the south and at Ukraine’s command center, army and ammunition depot in the Mykolaiv region.

Reuters could not independently verify the report of that battlefield.

Prior to the attack, Russian-backed separatists already controlled parts of Yugansk and neighboring Donetsk, but Moscow wanted to occupy the rest of the region’s Ukraine-controlled territory.

Ukraine’s military says seven civilians were killed and eight wounded in a Russian attack on Donbass on Sunday. The number of Yugansk was not disclosed.

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No concessions, no ceasefire

Ukraine’s chief negotiator, Mikhailo Podoliak, Zelensky’s adviser, denied any regional concessions in an interview with Reuters on Saturday and rejected calls for an immediate ceasefire, saying any concessions would be reciprocated because Russia would use the ceasefire to return to power.

There have been recent calls for an immediate ceasefire from US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

The end of the war in Mariupol, Russia’s largest occupied city, has given Putin a rare victory after nearly three months of continuous fighting.

Mariupol’s full control gives Russia command of a land route connecting the Crimean peninsula, which Moscow occupied in 2014, the mainland Russia and parts of eastern Ukraine occupied by pro-Russian separatists.

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Russian troops entered the Azovstal steel-works in Mariupol on Sunday, the last fortress in Ukraine, and began clearing mines and debris from the destroyed complex.

In addition to sanctions, Western nations have increased arms supplies and other assistance to Ukraine, including $ 40 billion in new packages from the United States.

Moscow says Western sanctions and aid to Kiev are tantamount to a “proxy war” between Washington and its allies.

Putin called the attack a “special military operation” to disarm Ukraine and rid it of extremist anti-Russian nationalists. Ukraine and its allies have rejected it as a baseless pretext for war, which has killed thousands of Ukrainians and displaced millions.

(Reporting by Reuters Bureau; by Michael Perry; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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