Ukraine reported heavy strikes Tuesday in the Sievierodonetsk region as Russian forces push to gain full control of the eastern city.
A spokesman for the General Staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine said at a daily briefing that fighting in Sievierodonetsk was fierce, with Russia conducting both airstrikes and shelling on Ukrainian positions.
Luhansk Governor Serhiy Haidai reported heavy fighting at the Azot chemical plant in Sievierodonetsk, where Ukrainian fighters and about 500 civilians are taking shelter.
Haidai also said Russian forces had brought "catastrophic destruction" to the city of Lysychansk, located just across a river from Sievierodonetsk.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy acknowledged difficulties trying to defend the country's eastern region but said Russian forces would continue to be met with Ukrainian resistance.
"We have the most difficult fighting there. But we have our strong guys and girls there," Zelenskyy said in his nightly address on Monday, adding, "the occupiers receive a response to their actions against us."
Earlier Monday, Zelenskyy accused Russia of holding Africa "hostage" by blocking wheat deliveries and contributing to rising food prices on the continent.
In a video speech to African Union leaders, Zelenskyy said, "This war may seem very distant to you and your countries. But catastrophically, rising food prices have already brought it home to millions of African families."
He said Ukraine is holding "complex, multilevel negotiations" to try to end Russia's blockade of Ukrainian ports.
"But there is no progress yet. ... That is why the global food crisis will continue as long as this colonial war continues," he said.
Russia denies it is deliberately blocking wheat exports from Ukraine and blames sanctions imposed by Western nations for rising global food prices.
European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell called Russia's actions "a real war crime." He told the EU's top diplomats gathered in Luxembourg on Monday, "It is inconceivable, one cannot imagine that millions of tons of wheat remain blocked in Ukraine while in the rest of the world, people are suffering (from) hunger."
Also Monday, U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Canadian Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland met in Toronto to discuss sanctions and other ways to boost economic pressure against Russia.
Yellen said at the start of the meeting that the two would also work together to boost energy production to counter high gas and energy prices.
Some information in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters, and Agence France-Presse.