Ukraine has rejected Moscow's ceasefire or easing, while Russia has stepped up its offensive in the eastern Donbass region, cutting off gas supplies to Finland.
Russia has stepped up attacks in Luhansk, one of the two provinces of Donbass, after weeks of resistance by the last Ukrainian fighters in the southeastern city of Mariupol.
Russian-backed separatists had already taken control of large parts of Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk before the February 24 attack, but Moscow wants to seize the last remaining Ukrainian-held territory in Donbass.
"The situation in Donbass is extremely difficult," Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky said in a speech last night. He said Russian forces were trying to attack the cities of Slovyansk and Sverdlovsk, but Ukrainian forces were blocking the move. Mikhail Podoliak, an adviser to Vladimir Zelensky, rejected the ceasefire agreement, saying Kyiv would not accept any agreement on surrendering or handing over its territory to Moscow.
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He said any concessions would lead to a renewed attack on Ukraine because Russia would launch more attacks after the ceasefire. Mikhail Podoliak, who heads the negotiating team, told Reuters in an interview that "there will be a break for a while." "They have started new war crimes, which is tantamount to bloodshed," he said.
Recently, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Lloyd and Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi called for a ceasefire. The war in Mariupol has ended, with Russian President Vladimir Putin winning an extraordinary victory here after nearly three months of continuous defeat. Russia says the last Ukrainian troops in Mariupol's surrendered last weekend.
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Russia has full control of Mariupol, adjacent to the Crimean Pennsylvania that Moscow occupied in 2014, a territory bordering Russia and in eastern Ukraine that is occupied by pro-Russian separatists. Ukrainian forces in the separatist-held areas of Luhansk and Donetsk have said they have thwarted nine attacks in the past 24 hours, destroying others, including five tanks and 10 armored vehicles.
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Ukrainians said in a Facebook post that Russian forces were using aircraft, artillery, tanks, rockets, mortars and missiles all over the front line to attack civilian structures and residential areas. At least seven people were killed in the Donetsk region, he said.
Luhansk's regional governor, Sergei Gaidai, said Russian troops had destroyed a bridge between Sverdlovsk and Lysichansk on the Donetsk River.
He said on the Telegram messaging app that fighting continued from morning till night on the outskirts of Sverdlovsk.
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