To overcome the drop in Russian deliveries, Brussels also proposed a plan on Wednesday to reduce European gas demand by 15%. This plan provides for an arsenal of measures such as limiting the heating of certain buildings, postponing the closure of nuclear power plants, encouraging companies to reduce their needs.
After almost five months of war, the head of Russian diplomacy Sergei Lavrov asserted that Russia’s military objectives were no longer limited only to eastern Ukraine, but also concerned “other territories” and could still expand.
Sergei Lavrov justified this change by a “different geography” compared to the situation on the ground at the end of March.
Part of the offensive on February 24, Russia said it wanted to focus on the Donbass basin, a mining region partly controlled by pro-Russian separatists since 2014, after having notably failed to take kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.
“It is no longer just the people’s republics of Donetsk and Lugansk (separatist territories in eastern Ukraine, editor’s note), it is also the regions of Kherson and Zaporizhya (in the south, editor’s note) and a series of other territories, and this process continues, steadily,” Lavrov told the Ria-Novosti news agency and the RT channel.
Lavrov also said that holding talks with Kyiv would make “no sense in the current situation”, saying that previous contacts had “only revealed the lack of will on the part of the Ukrainian side to seriously discuss anything it would be”.
Ukraine responded to the Russian announcement by calling for more weapons and additional sanctions against Moscow. “Russians want blood, not negotiations. I call on all partners to tighten sanctions against Russia and speed up arms deliveries to Ukraine,” Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba wrote on Twitter. .
Supplementing the six sets of sanctions adopted since the start of the war, the European Union also approved on Wednesday an embargo on gold exports from Russia. It will also freeze the assets of the Russian bank Sberbank and add several personalities and entities to its blacklist.
Moscow has made gains in recent weeks in the Donbass, including breaking the double lock of Severodonetsk and Lysychansk, two cities in the Lugansk region, which cleared the way for it to try to advance towards the cities of Kramatorsk and from Sloviansk, further west in the Donetsk region.
Heavy fighting, however, continues to unfold in this part of Ukraine, kyiv can count on recent deliveries of more efficient Western artillery pieces.
Mr. Lavrov also warned that if the West continued to supply Ukraine with weapons capable of striking at long range, such as the American Himars multiple rocket launchers, Russia’s geographical objectives would still evolve.
In the south, new bombings left at least two dead and nine injured in the city of Nikopol, according to its mayor Oleksandre Saïouk.
According to regional official Oleksandre Vilkoul, the Russian military fired salvoes of Grad missiles from occupied territories in southern Ukraine, 30 of which hit the city.
Among the injured, four are children, the youngest being three years old. “Three buildings were completely destroyed, up to ten others damaged,” he said on Telegram.
In Kharkiv, in the northeast, shelling killed at least three people, according to local authorities. Among the victims, a 13-year-old boy killed near a bus stop whose body AFP journalists saw and relatives in shock, kneeling near him, amid broken glass.
– Concerns for gas –
In Brussels, the European Commission is preparing people’s minds for gas shortages which risk slowing down economic activity and causing difficulties in heating.
Russia covered 40% of Europe’s gas supply until last year.
Despite an increase in imports from Norway, Azerbaijan and Algeria, and a tripling since March of shipments of American liquefied natural gas, Europeans fear a difficult winter.
“Russia uses gas as a weapon. In the event of a total interruption, Europe will have to be ready”, affirmed the president of the European executive, Ursula von der Leyen.
In addition to a request to save at least 15% of gas between August 2022 and March 2023, the Commission provides that the 27 Member States can resort to coal, oil or nuclear power if necessary.
In the immediate future, Europe is suspended from Moscow’s decision whether or not to reopen the valves of the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which mainly supplies Germany and has only been delivering 40% of its capacity since mid-June.
In remarks to the press overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin hinted that the pipeline could restart Thursday morning but that if Russia did not receive a missing turbine, it would operate at 20% capacity as soon as possible. next week.
“A pretext”, immediately lambasted Germany.
The Russian president also showered the hope of a resumption of exports by the Black Sea of the 20 million tons of Ukrainian cereals blocked because of the war.
Evoking a “progress” at the end of a summit in Tehran with his Turkish counterparts Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian Ebrahim Raïssi, he immediately set conditions.
“We will facilitate the export of Ukrainian grain, but assuming that all restrictions on possible export deliveries of Russian grain are lifted,” he said.
The war led to a jump in the price of cereals (wheat, maize), unsustainable for the countries most dependent on their imports, such as Egypt, Lebanon or Tunisia.