Zelensky asks for more respect from the European Union
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The Ukrainian leader chastised the bloc for being too soft on Moscow, after EU leaders made clear they would fail to agree on a Russian oil import ban at a summit in Brussels. Addressing EU leaders ahead of their talks, Mr Zelenzky blasted: “Why are you dependent on Russia, on their pressure, and not vice-versa? Russia must be dependent on you.
“Why can Russia still earn almost a billion euros a day by selling energy?
“Why are terrorist banks still working with Europe and the global financial system? Serious questions.”
After the scolding, the bloc agreed to ban most imports of Russian oil to the 27-nation bloc as Ukrainian and Russian forces battled on the outskirts of Sievierodonetsk, the last city still held by Kyiv in Ukraine’s strategic Luhansk province.
In the bloc’s toughest sanction on Moscow since the invasion of Ukraine three months ago, European Council President Charles Michel said the ban agreed at an EU summit in Brussels would immediately cover more than two-thirds of oil imports from Russia and cut a “huge source of financing for its war machine.”
The leaders said they had agreed to cut 90 percent of oil imports from Russia by the end of this year, with exemptions for Hungary – a landlocked country that relies heavily on crude piped from Russia – and others concerned about the ban’s economic impact.
EU leaders also agreed to cut off the largest Russian bank, Sberbank, from the SWIFT system and to ban three more Russian state-owned broadcasters, Mr Michel added.
The announcement came as Russia pressed its attacks in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, where President Zelensky said the situation remained “extremely difficult”.
Russia has been seeking to seize the entire Donbas, consisting of Luhansk and Donetsk which Moscow claims on behalf of separatist proxies.
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Capturing the twin cities of Sievierodonetsk and Lysychansk on the banks of the Siverskyi Donets river would give Moscow effective control of Luhansk and allow the Kremlin to declare some form of victory after more than three months of war.
But by focusing on a battle for the single small city, Russia could leave other territory open to Ukrainian counterstrikes.
Kyiv said its forces had pushed back Russian troops to defensive positions in Andriyivka, Lozove and Bilohorka, villages on the south bank of the Inhulets River that forms the border of Kherson province, where Moscow is trying to consolidate control.
Ukraine has called for the West to send more long-range weapons but U.S. President Joe Biden said Washington would not send Ukraine rocket systems that can reach into Russia, a decision Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev called “rational.”
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President Zelensky said Russian forces shelled the northeastern city of Kharkiv again on Monday, as well as the border region of Sumy, which was hit from inside Russia.
Russian shelling has reduced much of Sievierodonetsk to ruins, but the Ukrainian defence has slowed the wider Russian campaign across the Donbas region.
Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai said Russian troops had advanced into Sievierodonetsk’s southeastern and northeastern fringes, but Ukrainian forces had driven them from the village of Toshkivka to the south, which could frustrate a push to encircle the area.
“They use the same tactics over and over again. They shell for several hours – for three, four, five hours – in a row and then attack,” he said. “Those who attack die. Then shelling and attack follow again, and so on until they break through somewhere.”
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