Russian shelling killed at least five civilians and injured 10 others in eastern Ukraine, as Brussels urged European Union states to show “rock-solid” support for Kyiv and Russia’s highest court banned the “international LGBT movement” for being an “extremist” organisation.
At least two people were killed when Russian missiles hit residential buildings in the Pokrovsk area of Donetsk region on Thursday, and three were killed in shelling of villages in the Kherson region.
Heavy fighting and artillery fire continued around the towns of Kupiansk, Avdiivka and Bakhmut, and Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy visited troops at a command post for forces defending Kupiansk in Kharkiv region, which Kyiv’s troops liberated last year.
“I know that you lose people close to you and brothers-in-arms every day. Everyone understands that this is the highest price,” Mr Zelenskiy told the troops.
“Please, take care of yourselves, take care of your fellow soldiers...I wish you victory, to be strong, to keep up the momentum, to defend Kharkiv region, Kupiansk, every village, every square metre of our land.”
Mr Zelenskiy then spoke to British prime minister Rishi Sunak and German chancellor Olaf Scholz about the battlefield situation and Ukraine’s need for more air defence systems during what it expects to be a second winter of heavy Russian air strikes on its power grid and other infrastructure.
In Brussels, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said the EU must shoulder “strategic responsibility” for security and stability not only in member states, but also in countries in eastern Europe and the Balkans that hope to join the bloc.
“It is a responsibility, first of all, to support Ukraine in this war, for as long as it takes,” she told a European Defence Agency conference.
“This will not be easy – but this is exactly when our commitment needs to be rock-solid. Russia is now reinforcing its positions. Trying to re-take the initiative. And this means that the situation on the battlefield remains very difficult,” she added.
“But this is not an argument against support. It is an argument for more support...At the same time, we must also look at Ukraine’s security in the medium and long term. Ukraine must have the capabilities to deter future attacks by Russia. This is why the EU’s future security commitments to Ukraine are so vital.”
Ukrainian forces are under pressure in parts of Donetsk and Kharkiv provinces but have established a potentially important bridgehead in the Kherson region on the eastern bank of the Dnipro river, and conduct frequent covert operations in occupied territory and Russia itself. Sources in Ukraine’s SBU security services said its saboteurs had caused a fire that forced the closure of a 15km-long rail tunnel in Siberia to cargo traffic on Thursday.
Russia’s supreme court banned the activity of what it called the “international LGBT social movement” on grounds of extremism.
The Kremlin portrays itself as a bastion of “traditional values” and a bulwark against a decadent West that wants to destroy Russia.
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