Russian threatens broad Ukraine offensive as U.S. presses China over war stance

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  • U.S.’s Blinken urges Beijing to condemn invasion
  • Luhansk, Donetsk governors report fighting, strikes
  • Kharkiv hit by missile, 3 wounded – governor
  • Ukraine Foreign Minister echoes calls for Western arms

KYIV, July 9 (Reuters) – Ukrainian defenders battled on Saturday to contain Russian forces along several fronts, officials said, as the United States pressed China to align itself with the West in opposing the invasion following an ill-tempered G20 meeting.

A missile strike on the northeastern city of Kharkiv wounded three civilians, its governor said, though Russia’s main attacks appeared focused southeast of there in Luhansk and Donetsk.

The two provinces, swathes of which were already held by pro-Russian separatists before Russia’s invasion in February, comprise the eastern industrial region of the Donbas.

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Ukrainian officials reported strikes in both on Saturday, while Britain’s Ministry of Defence said in a regular bulletin that Moscow was assembling reserve forces from across Russia near Ukraine. read more .

Donetsk regional Governor Pavlo Kyrylenko said on the Telegram messaging service that a Russian missile had struck Druzhkivka, a town behind the front line, and reported shelling of other population centres.

Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai said on Telegram that Russian forces were “firing along the entire front line”, but later said a Ukrainian counter-attack had hit Russian weapons and ammunition stores and forced Moscow to halt its offensive.

Russia, which claimed control over all of Luhansk province last weekend, denies targeting civilians.

On Friday, Ukraine had pleaded for more of the high-end weapons from the West that Kyiv said had thus far enabled it so slow Russia’s advance.

Hours later, U.S. President Joe Biden signed a new weapons package for Ukraine worth up to $400 million, including four additional high mobility artillery rocket systems (HIMARS). (nL1N2YP1NH)

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy thanked Biden for armaments he said were priority needs. “It is what helps us press on the enemy,” he said on Twitter.

Commenting on the supply of weapons, the Russian embassy in Washington said the United States wanted to “prolong the conflict at all costs” and compensate for Ukrainian military losses.

‘SANCTIONS MUST BE STEPPED UP’

On Saturday U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging the international community to condemn Russian aggression, said he had raised concerns with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi over Beijing’s alignment with Moscow, during talks that lasted over five hours. read more

Blinken spoke to journalists from the Indonesian island of Bali after a gathering on Friday of G20 foreign ministers. Russia’s Sergei Lavrov had walked out of a meeting there, denouncing the West for its “frenzied criticism”.

Shortly before the Feb. 24 Russian invasion of Ukraine, Beijing and Moscow announced a “no limits” partnership, although U.S. officials have said they have not seen China evade tough U.S.-led sanctions on Russia or provide it with military equipment.

Oleh Synehubov, the governor of Kharkiv, said on Telegram that, as well as the missile strike on the city, fighters had repulsed two Russian attacks near Dementiivka, a town situated between the city and the border with Russia.

Russia’s defence ministry said its forces hit two “bases of foreign mercenaries deployed near Kharkiv”.

Ministry spokesperson Igor Konashenkov also said two Ukrainian Su-25 aircraft had been shot down in the southern Mykolaiv region, and that it had destroyed five ammunition depots there and in the eastern regions of Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk.

Russian-backed forces on the territory of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) said three people died and 17 were wounded there in the past 24 hours. It said Ukrainian forces had shelled 10 locations in the region.

Reuters could not independently verify battlefield accounts.

SANCTIONS PLEA

Following Friday’s testy G20 meeting, President Vladimir Putin also signalled that the Kremlin was in no mood for compromise, saying sanctions against Russia risked causing “catastrophic” energy price rises. read more

Ukraine’s Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said on Saturday that sanctions were working, and echoed calls for more deliveries of high-precision Western weapons.

“Russians desperately try to lift those sanctions which proves that they do hurt them. Therefore, sanctions must be stepped up until Putin drops his aggressive plans or simply loses resources to fill or execute them,” he told a forum in Dubrovnik by videolink.

Russia’s ambassador to Britain, Andrei Kelin, on Friday offered little prospect of a pullback from parts of Ukraine under Russian control and said Russian troops would capture the rest of Donbas. read more

Russia, which has also seized a big chunk of territory across Ukraine’s south, says it wants to wrest control of the Donbas.

Since Russia started what it calls a special operation to demilitarize Ukraine, cities have been bombed to rubble, thousands have been killed, and millions displaced.

Ukraine and its Western allies say Russia is engaged in an unprovoked land grab.

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Reporting by Reuters bureaus
Writing by John Stonestreet
Editing by Frances Kerry

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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