Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskiy predicted Russia will escalate its attacks this week as European Union leaders consider whether to back his country's bid to join the bloc and Russia presses its campaign to win control of east Ukraine.
"Obviously, this week we should expect from Russia an intensification of its hostile activities," Zelenskiy said in a Sunday nightly video address. "We are preparing. We are ready."
Ukraine applied to join the EU four days after Russian troops poured across its border in February. The EU's executive, the European Commission, on Friday recommended that Ukraine receive candidate status.
Leaders of the 27-nation union will consider the question at a summit on Thursday and Friday and are expected to endorse Ukraine's application despite misgivings from some member states. The process could take many years to complete.
The EU's embrace of Ukraine would interfere with one of Russian President Vladimir Putin's stated goals when he ordered his troops into Ukraine: to keep Moscow's southern neighbour out of the West's sphere of influence.
Putin on Friday said Russia had "nothing against" Ukraine's EU membership, but a Kremlin spokesperson said Russia was closely following Kyiv's bid especially in light of increased defence cooperation among EU members.
On the battlefield, Russian forces are trying to take complete control of the eastern Donbas region, parts of which were already held by Russian-backed separatists before the Feb. 24 invasion.
A prime target of Russia's eastern assault is the industrial city of Sievierodonetsk. Russia said on Sunday it had seized Metyolkine, a village on the outskirts, and Russian state news agency TASS reported that many Ukrainian fighters had surrendered there. Ukraine's military said Russia had "partial success" in the area.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Gaidai told Ukrainian television that a Russian attack on Toshkivka, 35 km (20 miles) south of Sievierodonetsk, also "had a degree of success". TASS, citing an aide to the interior minister of the Luhansk People's Republic, reported Toshkivka had been "liberated".
In Sievierodonetsk itself, a city of 100,000 before the war, mayor Olekander Struk said Russian forces controlled about two-thirds of the city, including most residential areas, and it kept throwing forces at the Ukrainians in an attempt to take over completely.
"I hope that the city will hold and, once it has the advantage in firepower, we will be able to liberate it without leaving it first."
Both Russia and Ukraine have continued heavy bombardment around Sievierodonetsk "with little change to the front line", Britain's Ministry of Defence said on Sunday.
In Sievierodonetsk's twin city of Lysychansk, residential and administrative buildings had been destroyed by Russian shelling, Gaidai said. "People are dying on the streets and in bomb shelters," he said.By Rabiu Tajudeen