Russia pounds eastern Ukraine

Russia pounds eastern Ukraine

Toretsk (Ukraine): Russia pounded eastern Ukraine on Tuesday as the US defence secretary promised to keep moving heaven and earth to get Kyiv the weapons it needs to repel the new offensive even as Moscow warned such support risked widening the war.

Two months into the devastating conflict, Western arms have already helped Ukraine stall Russia's invasion but its leaders have said they need more support fast.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that more help was on the way, as he convened a meeting of officials from around 40 countries at the United States' Ramstein Air Base in Germany to pledge more weapons. Germany announced it cleared the way for delivery of Gepard anti-aircraft guns to Ukraine.

This gathering reflects the galvanized world, Austin said in his opening remarks. He added that he wanted officials to leave the meeting with a common and transparent understanding of Ukraine's near-term security requirements because we're going to keep moving heaven and earth so that we can meet them. After fierce defense by Ukrainian forces thwarted Russia's attempt to take Ukraine's capital early in the war, Moscow now says its focus is the Donbas. In the mostly Russian-speaking industrial region in eastern Ukraine, separatists backed by Russia have fought Ukrainian forces since 2014.

The current war has spread devastation around Ukraine, leaving thousands of civilians dead and pushing millions to flee the country. Local officials said at least nine people killed and several more wounded by Russian attacks on towns and cities in eastern and southern Ukraine. Ukraine's General Staff also said Russian forces shelled Kharkiv, the country's second-largest city that lies outside the Donbas but has seen significant attacks as Moscow seeks full control of the region. Ukrainian forces struck back in the Kherson region in the south. With the potentially pivotal battle for the east underway, the U.S. and its NATO allies are scrambling to get artillery and other heavy weaponry to that area in time to make a difference.

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres met Lavrov on Tuesday and called again for a cease-fire. The U.N. chief is scheduled to meet Putin later.

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