Six more Ukrainian civilians were killed Monday, state emergency officials said, when Russia shelled a two-story shelter in the eastern town of Toretsk.
The State Emergency Service said on Facebook that rescuers found five bodies in the rubble and pulled three people out alive, but one later died in a hospital.
“The town of Toretsk was under fire today from early this morning. A two-story building sheltering people was destroyed as a shell slammed into it,” the statement said. A photograph showed rescuers digging through the rubble, but the emergency service said the search for survivors had been abandoned.
Russia has denied targeting civilians but bombarded numerous non-military sites in its nearly five-month onslaught, killing hundreds of people.
On the diplomatic front, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Monday he hopes there will be an agreement this week for Russia to end its blockade of Ukrainian ports in Odesa and elsewhere, with the lives of tens of thousands of people depending on such a deal amid food shortages in many countries.
Speaking to reporters in Brussels, Borrell said Russia has to allow Ukrainian grain exports or else the international community will have to say Russia is “using food as a weapon without any consideration for human beings’ lives.”
“It’s not a diplomatic game. It’s an issue of life and death for many human beings,” Borrell said.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last week there is “broad agreement” on a deal between Russia and Ukraine, with Turkey and the United Nations, to export millions of tons of Ukrainian grain stuck in silos since Russia’s invasion February 24.
EU foreign ministers are meeting in Brussels to consider further support for Ukraine, including military support, as well as improving the implementation of current sanctions against Russia and a proposal to ban gold purchases from Russia.
Borrell said Russia has been using European reliance on Russian gas supplies against EU countries, but that EU leaders are preparing plans to “face any possible situation” and will not stop supporting Ukraine.
He added that EU members must have patience and resilience in carrying out the sanctions against Russia.
Borrell said the EU ministers would be getting an update on the situation in Ukraine from Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba tweeted that he urged the EU foreign ministers to provide more military aid, enact an embargo on Russian energy and put a cap on Russian oil prices. He also encouraged European support for a tribunal to punish crimes of aggression against Ukraine.
“My key message: weapons to Ukraine, sanctions on Russia, and accountability for Russia are the three ways to restore peace, enhance security, and protect stability in Europe,” Kuleba said.
In Washington on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is set to host Ukrainian first lady Olena Zelenska for a meeting at the State Department.
Inside Ukraine, the country’s military reported Monday that Russian shelling was ongoing in several areas, including the Slovyansk and Kharkiv regions.
In the Donetsk region, a main focus for Russia, Ukraine’s military said Russian forces were trying to carry out an assault near Hryhorivka.
Britain’s Defense Ministry said Russia’s military is using the private military company Wagner to reinforce its frontline forces and make up for Russian casualties from the invasion.
“Wagner has almost certainly played a central role in recent fighting, including the capture of Popasna and Lysychansk. This fighting has inflicted heavy casualties on the group,” the ministry said.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy announced the suspension of the country’s top security chief, Ivan Bakanov, and prosecutor general Iryna Venediktova, pending further consideration as to whether they should be dismissed.
Zelenskyy cited what he said were hundreds of cases of alleged treason and collaboration with Russia involving workers within the security service and prosecutor general’s office.