Earlier this month Ukrainian officials already described a more intensified Russian bombardment of its forces in the Donbas – which they stressed is more so that at any prior point in the war – but President Volodymyr Zelenskiy is now predicting that Russia will escalate its attacks even more this week in connection to the much anticipated European Union summit.
Last Friday the European Commission recommended Ukraine for EU candidate status, which will be the focus of discussion among the 27-nation bloc's leaders at their scheduled summit in Brussels on Thursday and Friday. "Obviously, this week we should expect from Russia an intensification of its hostile activities," Zelenskiy said Monday in a video address. "We are preparing. We are ready."
Indeed there are signs the fight is intensifying, as it's widely believed Russian troops are on the cusp of gaining total control of the large Luhansk city of Sievierodonetsk – scene of heavy, weekslong fighting – which would solidify Russia's hold over the whole of the province, after which it's expected to mount another attack on Ukraine's second largest nearby city, Kharkiv. Ukraine officials have begun sounding a dour tone related to the fight for Sievierodonetsk as the reality of overwhelming Russian troop numbers and sustained artillery capability become evident.
Zelensky and his top officials have been ramping up their call for urgent, heavier arms if they hope to stall the Kremlin advance over all of Donbas. The EU summit for end of this week is expected to answer that call, with officials stressing they will be "unwavering" in authorizing more arms, according to a draft memo seen by the EU Observer:
"The European Union is unwavering in its dedication to assist Ukraine train its inherent proper of self-defense towards Russian aggression," it additionally says.
EU states have to date pumped in €2bn of weapons into Ukraine from a joint fund, and rather more in bilateral phrases — regardless of Russian concentrating on of Western arms convoys and complaints a couple of "proxy battle".
Also high on the agenda will be the wheat blockade crisis which has been enduring for months, threatening to unleash famine in North African/Middle East regions which are most heavily dependent on Ukraine grain exports.
According Sunday reporting in Deutsche Welle:
EU foreign ministers will discuss ways to free a huge cache of grain stuck in Ukraine due to Russia's Black Sea port blockade at a meeting in Luxembourg on Monday.
More than 20 million tons have been trapped in silos since Russia invaded the country in February.
Brussels says it supports a United Nations effort to resume Ukraine's sea exports in return for facilitating Russian food and fertilizer exports.
Meanwhile, there are signs from the Russian side that its military is ramping up heavier bombardments of Ukrainian command and control centers, with the defense ministry (MoD) on Sunday claiming a major direct hit on a command target, killing "dozens" of officers – though the statement couldn't be verified.
Russian officials said Monday that Ukraine has attacked Russian Black sea oil drilling platforms:
BREAKING: Ukraine has attacked sea oil drilling platforms: Crimea officialhttps://t.co/L2U3NIWrM7
— Insider Paper (@TheInsiderPaper) June 20, 2022
Russian state sources asserted that "Russian warships have destroyed a Ukrainian command center with Kalibr cruise missiles, killing dozens officers, Moscow's Defense Ministry reported on Sunday."
Prior footage of Kalibr cruise missile launches…
— Rob Lee (@RALee85) June 13, 2022
The ministry additionally detailed that "Kalibr missiles were also used to destroy 10 M777 howitzers and up to 20 armored vehicles that were recently delivered from the West, and had been stored inside a factory building in the southern city of Nikolayev," according to the readout in state media.