KYIV, Ukraine — A day after President Joe Biden signed a sweeping bill to support Ukraine with $40 billion more in military and humanitarian aid, Russian forces intensified their efforts to encircle and capture a key city in the east and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pleaded for additional weapons.
In a video address, Zelenskyy said the grinding military panorama in the heavily contested eastern Donbas region “is extremely difficult,” noting that Russian forces continue to mass around the cities of Severodonetsk and Slovyansk, strategic points that serve as the base for the Ukrainian defense of the Donbas.
He described a war of attrition, with his military’s strategy to try to wear down and frustrate Russian forces as they continue to pound Ukrainian positions.
The president said the military situation “had not changed significantly,” which he called a positive development, considering Moscow’s vast military capabilities.
“Actually, the fact that we are able to say this on the 87th day of a full-scale war against Russia is good news,” Zelenskyy said. “Russia has sent virtually all its resources to destroy us.”
Zelenskyy thanked Biden, who on Saturday signed one of the biggest foreign assistance packages in recent U.S. history. But Zelenskyy said additional weaponry would be required to open transport routes and ports that have been blocked by the Russians, actions that have fueled grain shortages and inflation globally.
His call for further aid highlights the unremitting nature of a conflict that began Feb. 24, when Russian troops invaded Ukrainian territory on various fronts. The Russian expectation of a quick victory evaporated as Ukrainian forces put up stiff resistance, forcing Moscow to abandon its plan to seize the capital, Kyiv.
Russian forces eventually retreated from Kyiv in early April and redirected efforts toward southern Ukraine and the Donbas, Ukraine’s coal-producing, traditional industrial heartland. The Donbas is composed of the provinces of Luhansk and Donetsk.
Since 2014, pro-Russia separatists have controlled large swaths of the Donbas region. Moscow’s forces are seeking to expand control to the entire Donbas.
On Sunday, Polish President Andrzej Duda appeared before Ukraine’s parliament in Kyiv and criticized recent remarks by some European leaders that Ukraine should consider a peace deal that would require it to cede some parts of the Donbas region to Russia.