President Volodymyr Zelenskyy of Ukraine asserts that Russian forces have "completely destroyed" the industrial region of Donbas and accuses Moscow of engaging in pointless bombardments as it intensifies its onslaught.
Mr. Zelenskyy further said that Russian soldiers sought to murder as many Ukrainians as possible and cause as much damage as possible, reiterating his claim that Russia was committing genocide.
He stated that although Ukrainian forces continued to liberate the Kharkiv region to the east of Kyiv, Russia was exerting even more pressure in the Donbas region, located in the southeast of Ukraine.
Thursday's "brutal and completely senseless bombardment" of Severodonetsk resulted in the deaths of 12 people, he said in a late-night video address, adding that this was not an exaggeration.
"[There are] continual attacks on the Odessa region and the central Ukrainian cities. "The Donbas is entirely destroyed," he declared.
Uncertainty surrounds the outcome of Azovstal fighters
Since Monday, more than 1,700 defenders of the Azovstal steel mill in Mariupol have surrendered, according to Russian authorities, signaling the end of the nearly three-month siege of the devastated coastal city.
At least some of the fighters were transferred by the Russians to a former prison colony in separatist-controlled area. Others, according to a separatist official, were hospitalized.
But an unknown number remained at the many plant's labyrinths of bunkers and tunnels.
The deputy commander of the Azov Regiment, which commanded the defense of the steel mill, stated in a brief video message that he and other troops were still inside.
While Ukraine has voiced anticipation for a prisoner swap, Russian authorities have promised to probe and prosecute several Azovstal fighters for war crimes.
Ukraine presents tough opposition in the Donbass region
Kyiv's army, reinforced by Western weapons, defeated Russia's initial objective of invading the capital, Kyiv, and have put up stout opposition against Moscow's forces in the Donbas, which President Vladimir Putin has set his sights on seizing.
The unexpected success of Ukraine's army has boosted confidence in Kiev.
Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Mr. Zelenskyy who participated in multiple rounds of negotiations with Russia, tweeted to Moscow, "Do not promise us a cease-fire – this is impossible without the complete withdrawal of all Russian soldiers.
Concerns on the future of Russian-controlled regions
Russia reaffirmed its intention to absorb or, at the very least, maintain control over occupied territories.
This week, Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin visited the areas of Kherson and Zaporizhzhia, which have been under Russian administration since shortly after the invasion began in February.
According to Russian news outlets, he stated that the areas could join "our Russian family."
Volodymyr Saldo, the Kremlin-appointed leader of the Kherson area, appeared in a Telegram video stating that Kherson "will become a subject of the Russian Federation."
Dmitry Peskov, a spokesman for the Kremlin, stated that people of regions of Ukraine held by Russian soldiers must "determine how and with whom they want to live."
Mr. Peskov asserted during a conference call with reporters in response to a question regarding some Russian officials' statements that Russia could try to integrate the occupied southern Ukrainian region of Kherson.
The Kremlin spokesman responded by stating that authorities must prioritize providing essential services to the inhabitants of Russian-controlled territories.