KYIV, Ukraine — With its grip tightened along the southern coast, Russia redoubled its assault on Ukraine’s Donbas region Friday, turning parts of the country’s eastern industrial heartland into “hell,” President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.
At least a dozen people were killed and scores of homes destroyed in the area of Severodonetsk, regional Gov. Serhiy Haidai said on social media, an assertion that could not be independently verified. Severodonetsk is the easternmost point of the Donbas still in Ukrainian hands after 12 weeks of the current war and a longer fight in the region, dating back to 2014, between pro-Kyiv forces and Moscow-backed secessionists.
The nearby city of Lysychansk also came under sustained fire, the Ukrainian military’s General Staff said, adding that its troops had repelled a series of attacks in the Donbas over the last 24 hours, destroying 14 armored vehicles and shooting down a Russian drone.
Despite those battlefield successes, the growing war of attrition has exacted a grievous toll on civilians and infrastructure, with people killed or maimed, houses pulverized and power cut off in hard-hit communities.
“It is hell there, and that’s not an exaggeration,” Zelenskyy said in his nightly video address to the nation.
He condemned a missile strike on the northeastern village of Desna, in which many residents were reported killed, as another example of attempted “genocide” by Russia. “It is a conscious and criminal attempt to kill as many Ukrainians as possible, to destroy more homes, public sites, businesses,” Zelenskyy said.
To bolster Ukraine’s defense, the U.S. Senate approved $40 billion in new aid for Kyiv on Thursday, sending the package to President Joe Biden for his promised signature. In addition, Germany’s finance minister said Friday that the Group of 7 leading industrialized nations would allocate $19.8 billion for Kyiv, as part of what the G-7 declared was its commitment “to our united response to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine and to our unwavering support to Ukraine.”
Western materiel and humanitarian assistance have been crucial to Ukraine’s ability to defy an enemy whose military might, both in personnel and weaponry, dwarfs its own.
“This is a demonstration of strong leadership and a necessary contribution to our common defense of freedom,” Zelenskyy said of the new U.S. pledge.
But the Kremlin has warned of reprisals against those rallying behind Ukraine and siding with the West. On Friday, Finland’s state-owned natural gas wholesaler, Gasum, said Russia’s Gazprom had announced that it would halt supplies to the Finnish company starting Saturday.