Kyiv continues to pressure the West to do more as battle in eastern Ukraine approaches

  • Zelensky urges oil embargo, seeks arms
  • Satellite imagery shows a convoy heading south
  • A civilian’s grave was found near Kyiv, an official said
  • The governor said nine trains are ready to evacuate in the east

Kyiv/BUZOVA, Ukraine (Reuters) – Ukraine said on Sunday it was seeking another round of European Union sanctions against Moscow and more military aid from its allies as it prepared for a major Russian offensive in the east of the country.

Russia has failed to capture any major cities since it launched its invasion on Feb. 24, but Ukraine says it has massed its forces in the east for a major offensive and has urged people to flee.

President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Twitter that he had spoken by phone with German Chancellor Olaf Schulz about additional sanctions as well as more defense and financial support for his country. Zelensky’s office said Zelensky discussed with Ukrainian officials Kyiv’s proposals for a new package of EU sanctions.

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In a video address on Saturday evening, Zelensky renewed his call for a complete embargo on Russian energy products and more weapons for Ukraine.

The European Union on Friday banned imports of Russian coal, among other products, but it did not yet touch upon imports of oil and gas from Russia. Read more

Mounting civilian casualties led to widespread international condemnation and new sanctions, particularly for hundreds of deaths in the town of Bucha, northwest of Kyiv which until just over a week had been occupied by Russian forces.

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A Ukrainian official said that a grave with at least two civilian bodies was found in the village of Buzova near Kyiv, in the latest discovery reported since the Russian withdrawal from areas north of the capital.

Taras Dedic, the head of the Dmytrivka community that includes Buzova, earlier spoke of dozens of dead bodies when speaking to Ukrainian television.

“At the moment, as we speak, we are recovering the bodies of two villagers who were killed,” Dedic told Reuters by telephone.

“There are other people we can’t find. They could be in different places, but that doesn’t lessen the pain of losing loved ones.”

Reuters was not immediately able to confirm the news.

Moscow has rejected accusations by Ukraine and Western countries of war crimes. It denied targeting civilians in what it described as a “special operation” to disarm and “disarm” its southern neighbor. Ukraine and Western countries dismissed this as an unfounded excuse for war.

Britain’s Ministry of Defense has said Russia is seeking to create a land corridor from Crimea, which it annexed in 2014, and the eastern Donbass region partly controlled by Moscow-backed separatists.

Satellite imagery released by private US firm Maxar on April 8 showed armored vehicles and trucks in a military convoy moving south toward Donbass through a town 100 kilometers (62 miles) east of Kharkiv.

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Some cities in the east are under heavy bombardment and tens of thousands are unable to evacuate.

Visits by top EU officials in recent days, Austrian Chancellor Karl Nahammer and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who have made pledges of more military and financial aid and new sanctions, have shown that life is somewhat returning to normal in the capital. Read more

Nine trains

But in the east, Ukrainian officials’ calls for civilians to flee have become more pressing after a missile attack hit a train station on Friday in the city of Kramatorsk in Donetsk region that was filled with people trying to leave.

Ukrainian officials said more than 50 people were killed.

Russia denied responsibility, saying the missiles used in the attack were used only by the Ukrainian military. The United States says it believes Russian forces are responsible.

Reuters was unable to verify the details of the attack.

The region’s governor, Serhiy Gaidai, wrote on the Telegram messaging service that residents of the Luhansk region will have nine trains on Sunday to set off.

In his Palm Sunday homily, Pope Francis called for an Easter truce in Ukraine and, in an apparent reference to Russia, questioned the value of placing a victory flag “on a pile of rubble.” Read more

The Russian invasion forced about a quarter of Ukraine’s 44 million people from their homes, reduced cities to rubble and killed or injured thousands.

On the battlefield, Ukraine’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that its armed forces used British-made Starstreak MANPAD missiles for the first time and destroyed a Russian Orlan-10 drone.

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The Russian Defense Ministry said it destroyed the launch pads of the Ukrainian S-300 anti-aircraft missile systems at Chuhiv airport and near the village of Starobogdanovka in the Mykolaiv region of southern Ukraine.

Reuters was unable to verify those reports.

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(Reporting by Reuters offices) Writing by Michael Berry and Tomasz Janowski Editing by Robert Percell and Frances Kerry

Our criteria: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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