(Reuters) – Ukraine said Russia started an anticipated new offensive in the east while a Russian missile attack killed seven people in Lviv, the first civilian victims in the western city about 60 km (40 miles) from Poland.
FIGHTING* Ukraine says the “Battle of Donbas” has begun with a new Russian assault on the east.* Lviv governor Maksym Kozytskyy said preliminary reports suggested there had been four hits on Lviv — three strikes on warehouses that are not currently being used by the military, and another on a car service station.* The United States military expects to start training Ukrainians on using howitzer artillery in coming days, a senior U.S. defense official said. * No fewer than 1,000 civilians are hiding in underground shelters beneath the vast Azovstal steel plant in the southeastern Ukrainian city of Mariupol, the city council said, adding that Russia was dropping heavy bombs on the Ukranian-held factory.* Russia said it had launched mass strikes overnight on the Ukrainian military and associated military targets.
* Luhansk regional governor Serhiy Gaidai said that Russians advanced overnight and took the town of Kreminna.
DIPLOMACY* French President Emmanuel Macron said that his dialogue with Russian President Vladimir Putin has stalled after mass killings were discovered in Ukraine.* Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy formally submitted a completed questionnaire on European Union membership to an envoy on Monday and said he believed this step would lead to his country gaining candidate status within weeks.* Humanitarian ceasefires between Ukrainian and Russian forces in Ukraine are not on the horizon right now, but may be possible in a couple of weeks, the U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths said.
ECONOMY* Russia’s invasion has damaged or destroyed up to 30% of Ukraine’s infrastructure at a cost of $100 billion, a Ukrainian minister said, adding reconstruction could be achieved in two years using frozen Russian assets to help finance it.
* Russia flagged a likely further cut in interest rates and more budget spending to help the economy adapt to biting western sanctions as it heads for its deepest contraction since 1994.
“This is what hell looks like on earth … It’s time (for) help not just by prayers. Save our lives from satanic hands,” Major Serhiy Volyna, commander of Ukraine’s 36th marine brigade which is still fighting in Mariupol, wrote in a letter to Pope Francis.
(Compiled by Robert Birsel, Alexandra Hudson, Keith Weir and Cynthia Osterman)