Ukraine: Heavy fighting in Donetsk region as power cuts continue to blight country

‘Weak’ move by West to cap prices of some of Russian oil exports will not blunt ability to wage war, Kyiv says

Kyiv has said a “weak” move by the West to cap prices of some of Russia’s oil exports will not blunt its ability to wage war, as heavy fighting continued in eastern Ukraine and blackouts blighted the country’s badly damaged power grid.

The Kremlin said it would not accept a decision by European Union and G7 states to pay no more than $60 (€57) for a barrel of Russian oil delivered by sea, after Moscow earlier threatened to halt oil sales to any country that joined such a scheme.

Western leaders say the measure will help stabilise global energy prices and limit Russian income from oil sales, but Poland and the Baltic countries pushed for a lower cap, given that Russian crude was trading at about $69 on Friday.

“You wouldn’t call it a big decision to set such a limit for Russian (oil) prices, which is quite comfortable for the budget of the terrorist state ... It’s a weak position,” said Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy.


“Russia has already caused huge losses to all countries of the world by deliberately destabilising the energy market ... And it’s only a matter of time when stronger tools will have to be used anyway. It is a pity that this time will be lost,” he added.

“This money will go not only to the war and not only to Russia’s further sponsoring of other terrorist regimes and organisations. This money will also be used to further destabilise precisely those countries that are now trying to avoid big decisions.”

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said: “We are assessing the situation. Certain preparations for such a cap were made. We won’t accept the price cap.”

Mr Zelenskiy said the heaviest fighting was now taking place around the neighbouring towns of Bakhmut and Soledar in partially occupied Donetsk region, as the onset of winter turned stretches of the frontline and soldiers’ trenches into a quagmire.

Blackouts continued to roll across Ukraine as engineers repaired severe damage inflicted on the national grid by Russian missile strikes, leaving millions without heat, light and water supplies as temperatures hovered around freezing.

Kyiv and its allies say Russia has focused on long-range rocket attacks against civilian targets after suffering repeated defeats on the battlefield, and being forced to withdraw from much of the Kharkiv and Kherson regions.

During a visit to Kyiv, US under-secretary for political affairs Victoria Nuland said Russian president Vladimir Putin had “taken this war to a new level of barbarism, taking it into every single Ukrainian home as he tries to turn off the lights and the water and achieve what he couldn’t on the battlefield.”

“Diplomacy is obviously everyone’s objective but you have to have a willing partner. And it’s very clear, whether it’s the energy attacks, whether it’s the rhetoric out of the Kremlin and the general attitude, that Putin is not sincere or ready for that,” she added.

Russia and ally Belarus – which co-operate as a “union state” – blame Ukraine and the West for the war, and their defence ministers met in Minsk to oversee deepening integration between their militaries.

Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko told Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu that the countries’ troops were training together “so the defenders of the union state could repel any aggression ... There are no divisions, we are a single group of forces, a single army.”

Senior Ukrainian military commander Serhiy Nayev said “the accumulation of ‘union’ troops on the territory of Belarus continues. So we are constantly monitoring this situation ... Now, there is still no threat from Belarus.”