Ukraine needs new weapons and faster deliveries to confront a “very tough” situation of constant attacks by Russian forces in the eastern Donetsk region, Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy said on Sunday.
“The situation is very tough. Bakhmut, Vuhledar and other sectors in Donetsk region – there are constant Russian attacks. There are constant attempts to break through our defences,” Mr Zelenskiy said in his nightly video address.
“Russia wants the war to drag on and exhaust our forces. So we have to make time our weapon. We have to speed up events, speed up supplies and open up new weapons options for Ukraine.”
The general staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said earlier on Sunday that its forces repelled an attack near Blahodatne in the eastern part of the Donetsk region, while Russia’s Wagner private military group said it took control of the village.
A later military statement made no mention of Blahodatne.
Mr Zelenskiy issued his latest appeal for increased weapons shipments days after Germany and the United States led a list of countries agreeing to supply modern tanks.
Mr Zelenskiy on Saturday said Ukraine needed the US-made ATACMS missiles with a range of about 300km, which Washington has so far declined to supply. A presidential adviser said talks were under way on supplying long-range missiles and a Ukrainian air force spokesman spoke of negotiations on providing aircraft.
In his latest remarks, Mr Zelenskiy said Ukraine’s command was committed to ensuring that “our pressure is greater than the occupiers’ capacity to attack” and that meant “maintaining the defence support from our partners”.
“The enemy takes no account of its personnel and despite the extent of the losses is maintaining the intensity of its attacks,” he said.
“Confronting this requires extraordinary resilience and a full awareness by our soldiers that in defending Donetsk region they are defending all of Ukraine.”
Earlier, Ukraine imposed sanctions against 182 Russian and Belarusian companies, and three individuals, in the latest of a series of steps by Mr Zelenskiy to block Moscow’s and Minsk’s connections to his country.
“Their assets in Ukraine are blocked, their properties will be used for our defence,” Mr Zelenskiy said.
The sanctioned companies chiefly engage in the transportation of goods, vehicle leasing and chemical production, according to the list published by the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine.
The list includes Russian potash fertiliser producer and exporter Uralkali, Belarus state-owned potash producer Belaruskali, Belarusian Railways, as well as Russia’s VTB-Leasing and Gazprombank Leasing both dealing with transport leasing.
Meanwhile, Russian president Vladimir Putin is open to contact with German chancellor Olaf Scholz though has no phone call scheduled with him, a Kremlin spokesman told the state RIA Novosti news agency on Sunday.
“For now, there are no agreed talks [with Mr Scholz] in the schedule. Putin has been and remains open to contacts,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov was quoted as saying by RIA Novosti.
Mr Scholz was quoted by the Berlin daily Tagesspiegel in an interview published on Sunday as saying, “I will also speak to Putin again – because it is necessary to speak.”
He said: “The onus is on Putin to withdraw troops from Ukraine to end this horrendous, senseless war that has cost hundreds of thousands of lives already.”
Mr Putin and Mr Scholz last spoke by phone in early December. The Russian leader said at the time the German and Western line on Ukraine was “destructive” and called on Berlin to rethink its approach. – Reuters