Russia has been trying to trap Ukrainian forces in Sievierodonetsk, where Mr Gaidai previously said 90 per cent of buildings were destroyed, and Lysychansk, its twin city across the river.
He said fighting continued on Sievierodonetsk’s outskirts but evacuations were still possible even though a key road out “is completely under fire”.
A Ukrainian retreat could bring President Vladimir Putin closer to his stated goal of capturing the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of east Ukraine in full.
On the diplomatic front, European Union officials said a deal might be reached by Sunday to ban deliveries of Russian oil by sea, accounting for about 75 per cent of the bloc’s supply, but not by pipeline – a compromise to win over Hungary and unblock new sanctions.
Ukraine’s Moscow-backed orthodox church cuts ties with Russia
The council also appealed to both Ukraine and Russia to “continue the negotiation process” and find a way to “stop the bloodshed”.
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