Ukraine extends martial law as artillery battle rages for Donbas

Kyiv insists it will not surrender territory to Russia to secure peace deal

Poland has backed Ukraine's insistence that it will not surrender territory to Russia to secure a peace deal with the Kremlin, as Moscow's forces continued to hammer the Donbas region and Kyiv raced to resupply its troops there with arms sent by western allies.

Russia's defence ministry said on Sunday that its long-range missiles had destroyed several Ukrainian command posts, arms depots and clusters of troops and armour over the previous 24 hours in Donbas, where Moscow is focusing its offensive after being forced back from Ukraine's two main cities Kyiv and Kharkiv.

Ukraine says heavy Russian shelling in recent days has killed and injured civilians in Severodonetsk, and accused Moscow's troops on Saturday of blowing up a major bridge linking the industrial Donbas city with nearby Lysychansk. About 75km to the west Russian troops moving from the north are trying to seize the strategic city of Slovyansk.

"The situation in Donbas is extremely difficult…the Russian army is trying to attack Slovyansk and Severodonetsk," said Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.

“The armed forces of Ukraine are deterring this offensive. Every day that our defenders take away from these offensive plans of Russia, disrupting them, is a concrete contribution to the approach of the main day…victory day.”

To bolster its defence against the Russian invasion, Ukraine’s parliament voted on Sunday to extend martial law and the mobilisation of armed forces for a third time, until August 23rd.

Nato states are accelerating delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine, three months into an all-out war with Moscow that many military analysts thought would be over in days or weeks due to the Russian military's overwhelming advantage in size and firepower.

US president Joe Biden signed a Bill on Saturday to send almost $40 billion (€38bn) in military, financial and humanitarian aid to Ukraine, but there are concerns in Kyiv that some western powers are focused not on helping it win the war, but on crafting a face-saving compromise deal for Russia that would demand major sacrifices of Ukraine.

"Today any concession to Russia is not a path to peace but a war postponed for several years. Ukraine trades neither its sovereignty nor territories and Ukrainians living on them," said Mykhailo Podolyak, a senior adviser to Mr Zelenskiy and head of his delegation in talks with Moscow.

Commenting on Russia’s blockade of Ukraine’s Black Sea ports, which is preventing the export of millions of tonnes of grain and fuelling fears for global food supply, Mr Podolyak said the world should not “bargain with a country that has taken hostages”.

“Well, we have a better idea. The world has to agree on the transfer of multi-launch rocket systems to Ukraine and other necessary heavy weapons to unblock the Black Sea. Then we will do everything ourselves.”

Demands

In an address to parliament in Kyiv on Sunday, visiting Polish president Andrzej Duda said: "Worrying voices have appeared, saying that Ukraine should give in to Putin's demands. Only Ukraine has the right to decide about its future.

“If Ukraine is sacrificed for…economic reasons or political ambitions – even a centimetre of its territory – it will be a huge blow not only for the Ukrainian nation but for the entire western world,” he said.

Russia's all-out invasion of Ukraine has prompted Finland and Sweden to apply to join Nato, but Turkey says it cannot support the accession of states that it accuses of being soft on Kurdish and Gulenist groups that Ankara regards as terrorists.

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated that position in separate phone calls over the weekend with Finnish and Swedish leaders and Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg.

Mr Stoltenberg said he and Mr Erdogan discussed “the importance of Nato’s ‘open door’ and the membership applications by Finland and Sweden. We agree that the security concerns of all allies must be taken into account and talks need to continue to find a solution.”

France’s European affairs minister Clément Beaune said on Sunday that it would be a “long time” before Ukraine gained EU membership, estimating it could take up to two decades. “We have to be honest,” he said. “If you say Ukraine is going to join the EU in six months, or a year or two, you’re lying.” Additional reporting: AP