ip is not just to seize the territory of Ukraine, but to dismember the entire centre and east of Europe and deal a global blow to democracy,” Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky said late yesterday.
His chief of staff, Andriy Yermak, said Russia was “beginning the gas blackmail of Europe”.
“Russia is trying to shatter the unity of our allies,” Yermak said.
Bulgaria, which is almost completely reliant on Russian gas imports, said it had fulfilled all its contractual obligations with Gazprom and that the proposed new payment scheme was in breach of the arrangement.
It has held initial talks to import liquefied natural gas through neighbouring Turkey and Greece.
Gazprom said it had not yet suspended supplies to Poland but that Warsaw had to pay for gas in line with its new “order of payments”.
It declined to comment regarding Bulgaria.
The invasion of Ukraine, launched on Feb 24, has left thousands dead or injured, reduced towns and cities to rubble, and forced more than 5 million people to flee abroad.
Moscow calls its actions a “special operation” to disarm Ukraine and protect it from fascists.
Ukraine and the west say this is a false pretext for an unprovoked war to seize territory in a move that has sparked fears of wider conflict in Europe unseen since World War II.
Russia’s ambassador to the US has warned Washington to stop sending arms to Ukraine, saying that large western deliveries of weapons were inflaming the situation.
More than 40 countries met in Germany yesterday to discuss Ukraine’s defence.
Mark Milley, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, told reporters while flying to yesterday’s meeting that the next few weeks in Ukraine would be “very, very critical”.
Germany announced yesterday its first delivery of heavy weapons to Ukraine, including Gepard tanks equipped with anti-aircraft guns.
Ukrainian pleas for heavy weapons have intensified since Moscow shifted its offensive to the eastern region of Donbas, seen as better suited for tank battles than the areas around the capital Kyiv where much of the earlier fighting took place.
A series of blasts were heard in the early hours of today in the Russian city Belgorod near the Ukrainian border, regional governor Vyacheslav Gladkov said, and an ammunition depot in the province was on fire.
Gladkov said no civilians had been hurt by the fire which broke out at a facility near Staraya Nelidovka village.
Russia this month accused Ukraine of attacking a fuel depot in Belgorod with helicopters and opening fire on several villages in the province.
The Belgorod province borders Ukraine’s Luhansk, Sumy and Kharkiv regions, all of which have seen heavy fighting since Russia invaded Ukraine two months ago.
Fighting continued in eastern and southern Ukraine.
Ukrainian farmers in the southern region of Zaporizhzhia which borders the front line are wearing body armour to plough their fields.
Russia’s defence ministry said its forces had “liberated” the entire Kherson region in southern Ukraine and parts of the Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv and Kharkiv regions, Interfax news agency reported.
If confirmed, that would represent a significant Russian advance.
Ukrainian authorities yesterday dismantled a huge Soviet-era monument in the centre of Kyiv meant to symbolise friendship with Russia, according to the city’s mayor.
The 8m bronze statue depicted a Ukrainian and Russian worker on a plinth, holding aloft together a Soviet order of friendship.
The statue was under a giant titanium “People’s Friendship Arch”, erected in 1982 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Soviet Union.
“We now see what this ‘friendship’ is – the destruction of Ukrainian cities … killing tens of thousands of peaceful people. I am convinced such a monument has an entirely different meaning now,” Kyiv mayor Vitaly Klitschko said.
UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres told Russia’s foreign minister yesterday that he was ready to fully mobilise the organisation’s resources to save lives and evacuate people from the besieged Ukrainian city of Mariupol.