Both Russia and Ukraine have deployed “significant forces” to the area around the Ukrainian cities of Pavlivka and Vuhledar in south-central Donetsk Oblast, according to the UK MoD.
The agency said in an intelligence update posted to Twitter on Sunday that the area “has been the scene of intense fighting over the past two weeks, although few areas have changed hands.”
The area is likely to remain “strongly contested,” the ministry said, because “Russia believes the area has potential as a launching pad for a future major advance north to capture the rest of the Ukrainian-held Donetsk Oblast.”
However, the ministry said the chances of Russia realizing this goal are slim as “Russia will probably not be able to concentrate enough highly skilled forces to achieve an operational breakthrough”.
On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy hosted a summit in Kyiv to mark the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor, or Great Famine, and to promote the Grains from Ukraine initiative to send grain to countries hardest hit by hunger and drought to send.
The Holodomor was a fabricated famine orchestrated by Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin in the winter of 1932-33, during which up to 8 million Ukrainians died.
Zelenskyy used the anniversary to reaffirm Ukraine’s commitment to exporting grain and other foodstuffs to the world market. These are “not just empty words,” he said.
“In general, as part of the Grains from Ukraine program, by the end of next spring we plan to send at least 60 ships from our ports – at least 10 per month – to countries threatened by hunger and drought,” he said. “This is Ethiopia, this is Sudan, South Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Congo, Kenya, Nigeria.”
The initiative complements the UN-brokered agreement that allows Ukrainian grain to be shipped across the Black Sea. The Kremlin said these Ukrainian exports failed to reach the most vulnerable countries.
Zelenskyy said Kyiv has raised around $150 million from more than 20 countries and the European Union to export grain to vulnerable countries.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said Ukraine — despite its own tight budget — has allocated $24 million to buy corn for countries in need.
Schmyhal also met his Lithuanian and Polish counterparts in Kyiv on Saturday. The three prime ministers of the Lublin Triangle reaffirmed their commitment to work together against Russian aggression.
In a joint statement, the participants condemned “systemic war crimes committed by Russian forces in regions of Ukraine, including deliberate, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on the civilian population and parts of civilian infrastructure”.
Ukraine continues to repair its power grid after Russia’s latest attack.
Zelenskyj said in his video address on Saturday evening that millions of people are still without electricity.
Power generators can meet about three-quarters of consumption needs, grid operator Ukrenergo said on Saturday, while restrictions and blackouts across the country continue.
“We would like to remind you that now every Ukrainian whose house has had electricity restored can help give it back to others faster, simply by using electricity sparingly,” Ukrenergo said in a statement on the Telegram messaging app .
The situation in Kyiv has improved, said Sergey Kovalenko, chief operating officer of YASNO, a branch of Ukraine’s largest private energy company, and most residents should have at least four hours of electricity a day.
Though not everyone has electricity, Kyiv Mayor Vitali Klitschko said water supplies have been restored across the city.
Power has also been restored in the southern Ukrainian city of Kherson after a recent Russian barrage on the city killed several and damaged power infrastructure.
“First we will supply electricity to the city’s critical infrastructure, and then immediately to household customers,” Kyrylo Tymoshenko, deputy head of Ukraine’s presidential administration, wrote on Telegram.
Many people are taking the officials’ advice and leaving Kerson for safer parts of Ukraine.
A line of trucks, vans and cars stretched for a kilometer or more on the outskirts of the city of Kherson on Saturday.
“It is sad that we are leaving our home,” Yevhen Yankov said as a van he was in inched forward. “Now we are free, but we have to go because there are shells and there are dead among the population.”
Ukraine said the attacks were clearly designed to harm civilians, making them a war crime. Russia has said it is only targeting militarily-connected infrastructure and blamed Kyiv for the blackouts.
Heavy snowfall is expected in Kyiv on Sunday, with temperatures falling below freezing around the clock. The weather forecast in large parts of Ukraine is similar in the coming days.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty contributed to this report. Some material for this report comes from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.
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