Ukraine war: Two killed as Russia continues to pummel south and east

Ukraine war: Two killed as Russia continues to pummel south and east
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French President Emmanuel Macron will bring together more than twenty heads of state and government at the Élysée Palace on Monday for a conference in support of Ukraine.

The conference is on short notice, in response to what Macron's advisers say is an escalation in Russian aggression over the past few weeks.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British foreign minister David Cameron, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, as well as Scandinavian and Baltic leaders are set to attend.

Leaders will also look at solutions to meet the needs of Ukraine and its people, examine the situation on the ground, and reaffirm their support for Ukraine and President Zelenskyy.

Shelling in city of Kostiantyivka

At least two civilians were killed and eight others were wounded in the Zaporizhzhia and Kherson provinces on Sunday as Russian shelling and rocket strikes continued to pummel Ukraine’s south and east.

A woman was wounded and a railway station turned into a smoldering ruin amid heavy shelling in the eastern city of Kostiantynivka, according to the head of the municipal military administration.

Ukraine’s public broadcaster, Suspilne, cited local police as saying that the strikes also damaged an Orthodox church, more than a dozen residential buildings and dozens of shops, a post office, schools and local government offices.

Gen. Oleksandr Tarnavskyi, who leads Ukrainian forces fighting in the area of Adviivka, a strategic city captured this month by Moscow, meanwhile said Sunday that his troops had retreated from much of the city's western suburb of Lastochkyne.

Some Ukrainian media on Saturday reported that Russian troops had taken Lastochkyne, but there was no official confirmation from Kyiv and the battlefield situation appeared fluid.

The Kremlin-appointed administrative chief posted footage from within the city - the biggest battlefield victory for Russia since the fight for Bakhmut.

Zelenskyy confirms year three of war will be decisive

President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, speaking at the "Ukraine. Year 2024" forum in Kyiv, confirmed plans for an international peace summit to tackle issues exacerbated by the war, such as nuclear or food security, in Switzerland in 2024.

That would be followed by a potential invitation to Russian representatives to attend a second summit later in the year. However, Zelenskyy said Ukraine would not submit to a peace plan that did not serve its interests, and discarded the idea of direct negotiations.

“Is it possible to talk to a man who kills his opponents?” Zelenskyy said, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. “We will offer a platform where he can agree that he has lost this war and that it was a mistake.”

Zelenskyy also spoke about ongoing fighting in northeastern Ukraine, where front-line conflict has intensified in recent months. He said that Moscow was using heavy artillery fire to put pressure on Ukrainian forces in the directions of Kharkiv and Kupiansk.

However, his speech remained defiant. “Will Ukraine lose in this war? I am sure that it won’t. Our most difficult moment was on Feb. 24 two years ago. We have no alternative but to win. (...) If Ukraine loses, then we will not exist. We do not want such an ending to this fight for our lives.”

Speaking at the same forum, Minister of Defence Rustem Umerov said that Western allies still needed to deliver on their commitments if Ukraine is to have any chance of holding out against Russia.

“We look to the enemy: their economy is almost $2 trillion," he said, adding that they use up to 15% of official and nonofficial budget funds for the war, which constitutes more than $150 billion. He said that whenever a commitment doesn't arrive on time, “we lose people, we lose territories.”

During a press conference after the forum Sunday, Zelenskyy said four brigades did not take part in the country’s counteroffensive against Russian forces because they hadn’t received the equipment they were expecting.

“Can you imagine the numbers of guys who would have fought, who couldn’t? The ones that had to sit and wait for the equipment they never received?”