KYIV—Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy on Monday urged Western leaders to supply anti-aircraft defense systems to his embattled nation as Russian forces assaulted Lysychansk, the last big city still held by Ukrainian troops in eastern Luhansk Province.
As the leaders met, Russian forces were bombarding Lysychansk, the Kremlin’s immediate battlefield target following the fall of neighboring Sievierodonetsk over the weekend.
Luhansk governor Serhiy Gaidai said the city was suffering “catastrophic” damage from the shelling and he urged civilians to urgently evacuate.
“The situation in the city is very difficult,” Gaidai wrote on the Telegram messaging app.
Prior to his address to G7 leaders meeting in the resort of Schloss Elmaua, Zelenskyy had stressed the urgency of the need for more arms.
“Partners need to move faster if they are really partners, not observers. Delays with the weapons transfers to our state, any restrictions—this is actually an invitation for Russia to hit again and again,” he said in the latest of the daily messages with which he rallies his compatriots.
The leaders will make a long-term security commitment to provide Ukraine with financial, humanitarian, military, and diplomatic support, for “as long as it takes,” including advanced weapons, the White House said.
President Joe Biden had earlier told allies “we have to stay together” against Russia in the face of its assault on Ukraine, now in its fifth month.
Sanctions have cut Russia out of the global financial system but the war has created difficulties for countries way beyond Russia’s borders, with curtailed food and energy supplies hitting the global economy.
These also include Ukrainian grain exports, now trapped in ports, which normally feed millions of people across the Middle East, Africa, and elsewhere.
But Russian President Vladimir Putin has shown no sign of changing course as his troops battled to pick off another Ukrainian city.
The General Staff of Ukraine’s Armed Forces said on Monday Russian forces were using artillery to try to cut off Lysychansk from the south. Russian war planes had also struck near the city, the general staff said in its daily update.
Tass news agency on Sunday quoted an official from Moscow-backed separatists as saying Russian forces had entered Lysychansk from five directions and were isolating Ukrainian defenders.
Reuters could not confirm the report and the general staff update made no mention of separatists entering the city.
In a setback for Ukraine, Russian forces won full control of Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk’s twin city on the eastern bank of the Siversky Donets River, over the weekend when Ukrainian troops pulled out after weeks of bombardments and street fighting.
Luhansk and neighboring Donetsk Province make up Ukraine’s eastern Donbass region—the country’s industrial heartland.
Russian forces also control a swathe of territory in the south, including the port city of Mariupol, which fell after weeks of siege warfare that left it in ruins.
Russian missiles also struck Kyiv for the first time in weeks on Sunday.
Western countries rallied around Kyiv when Russia invaded Ukraine in February, but that unity is now being tested as soaring inflation and energy shortages rebound on their own citizens.
At the summit, Biden emphasized the need for unity amid concern that there were diverging opinions in European capitals about how to handle the situation.
“Putin has been counting on it from the beginning that somehow the NATO and the G7 would splinter. But we haven’t and we’re not going to,” the U.S. president claimed.
By Tom Balmforth