By Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Sashank Bengali
A day after President Joe Biden signed a mammoth package of economic and military aid for Ukraine, Russian forces renewed their assault against a key eastern city, a sign of Moscow’s narrowing military objectives as the war reaches the three-month mark.
A pocket of dug-in Ukrainian troops pushed back Russians attacking from four directions toward Sievierodonetsk, one of Ukraine’s main strongholds in the eastern Donbas region, a senior regional official said. After retreating from northern Ukraine, Moscow has made the battle for Sievierodonetsk a priority as it tries to capture the entire Donbas, and it has deployed heavier artillery and armored vehicles in an effort to break through Ukrainian defenses.
President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine described the situation in the Donbas as “extremely difficult” but said that Ukrainian forces were holding their ground as he pressed his allies for even more military support.
While Zelenskyy thanked the United States for completing a $40 billion aid package, one of the largest foreign assistance efforts in decades, he said that more weapons were needed so Ukraine could open ports and transportation routes that have been shut off by Russia. The blockage of Ukrainian exports of grain and other food supplies has contributed to spiraling global inflation and food prices.
The battle for Sievierodonetsk was emerging as another crucial point in the war, as Russia struggles to notch victories in the east while Ukraine’s Western allies race howitzers and other long-range weapons to the front line to bolster the resistance. Moscow has already sustained heavy losses in its push toward the city, but capturing it could allow its forces to threaten Kramatorsk to the west, the headquarters of Ukraine’s regional military command.
Here are some other major developments:
— Ukraine’s parliament extended martial law and a general mobilization for another 90 days. The measures were first introduced when Russia invaded in February.
— International sanctions targeting the Russian economy have “practically broken” logistics in the country, its transportation minister said Saturday, a rare acknowledgment by the Kremlin of the effect of sanctions.
— Russian forces have destroyed 1,873 educational institutions in Ukraine since the invasion began, Zelenskyy said. He described the loss as being on a “colossal scale.”