Russia to annex large parts of eastern Ukraine

Russia to annex large parts of eastern Ukraine

Russia will try to annex large parts of eastern Ukraine as soon as this month, a senior U.S. official warned, underscoring the stakes for civilians in the region as efforts continue to evacuate those trapped in the steel plant that has been Mariupol's last holdout.

The U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Michael Carpenter, warned that Russia was planning sham referendums in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions that have been a focus of Moscow's eastern offensive.

The attack has brought renewed fighting and bombardment to towns across Ukraine's east and south, even with Russian forces struggling to make progress. Civilians fleeing the siege of the Azovstal steel plant in Mariupol, the key port city, arrived in Ukrainian controlled territory on Tuesday.

The country's fierce defense has helped rally Western allies to offer growing support, with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set to address Kyiv's parliament in a speech that will hail Ukraine's finest hour.